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Impressive progress in maternal health has been achieved in East and Southern Africa but the region still sees far too many maternal deaths and ill health related to pregnancy and childbirth, and far too many young people who cannot get needed contraception. The region has the world’s second worst rate of maternal mortality at 455 deaths per 100,000 live births. See our key activities - Innovation Accelerator and TuneMe - and our Knowledge Hub.

On average, a woman has 4.4 children, and just over one third of married women aged 15-49 years use modern contraception. This data underlines the need to redouble efforts in East and Southern Africa (ESA) to improve the quality and coverage of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services. This requires a combination of investment, evidence, policies, programmes and advocacy.


UNFPA’s new flagship project, Preventing Maternal Deaths in East and Southern Africa (PreMDESA), creatively uses a multifaceted approach. It aims to provide robust evidence to inform successful design and implementation of sexual and reproductive health programmes - as well as support formative research in areas of innovation, demographics, and data.

PreMDESA’s rich basket of activities covers a continuum of interlinked areas and issues:

  • Supplying life-saving contraceptives and training health providers will improve both access to and quality of family planning services;
  • Research on key reproductive health issues will provide hard evidence to inform policies to revitalize family planning;
  • Targeting under-served, marginalized groups will expand their access to, demand for and use of reproductive health services;
  • Using social media to reach young people with information will drive behaviour change - see TuneMe and Innovation Accelerator;
  • Improving data capture and analysis will produce evidence for advocacy on how to harness the demographic dividend.


The programme will provide family planning services to three million users, including nearly half a million additional users, resulting in:

2,126 maternal deaths averted
765,875 unintended pregnancies averted
3,725,543 couple years of protection provided

Read how PreMDESA is already having an impact by reducing maternal deaths.

Research reports