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Merck for Mothers joins U.S. and Norwegian Governments to Announce Partnership to Save Mothers' Lives in Africa

New private-public partnership brings together the U.S. and Norwegian governments, Merck for Mothers, Every Mother Counts, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to tackle maternal mortality

Oslo, Norway—1 June 2012—Today, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, formally announced the Norwegian government's involvement in Saving Mothers, Giving Life – a new global health initiative aimed at reducing the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth – during a joint keynote address with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a global health conference focusing on women and children's health.

Merck for Mothers, an initiative of Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, is partnering with the U.S. and Norwegian governments and leading global health advocates to tackle maternal mortality. Saving Mothers, Giving Life – a collaboration among Merck for Mothers, the U.S. Government, the Government of Norway, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Every Mother Counts – seeks to reduce maternal deaths in several selected regions in Africa where maternal mortality is high, and identify ways to replicate success. Merck's contribution to the partnership, which will span five years, is valued at more than $50 million.

"Maternal mortality is one of society's oldest and most complex health challenges – and one that not only destroys the lives of mothers, but devastates their families and communities," said Naveen Rao, M.D., Lead for Merck for Mothers. "Merck welcomes this innovative partnership opportunity to tackle this unacceptable tragedy."

In the next decade, experts estimate that nearly three million women may die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of these deaths are preventable.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life seeks to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which call for a 66% reduction in child mortality and a 75% reduction in maternal mortality by 2015, respectively. Initially, the partnership will target districts in Uganda and Zambia where maternal death rates are disproportionately high. Working in close cooperation with national governments, the effort will strengthen country-wide health systems and provide proven and cost-effective interventions to women during the critical period around labor, delivery, and 24 hours postpartum when women are at greatest risk of life-threatening complications. A key part of the effort will include the development of a rigorous evaluation process to identify ways to replicate success on a larger scale, both in these two countries and beyond.

Merck for Mothers will help guide the strategic direction of Saving Mothers, Giving Life, contribute to on-the-ground program implementation and evaluation, and provide management, leadership, and support for the partnership.

Coordinating the partnership on behalf of the U.S. Government is the Office of the Global Health Initiative at the U.S. Department of State.

Saving Mothers, Giving Life signals the start of closer cooperation between the U.S. and Norway in the area of women and children's health. It also marks a growing tendency to leverage public-private partnerships to tackle tough global health challenges.

"Maternal mortality is a complex issue that requires comprehensive solutions. Put simply, no one sector can tackle it alone," said Dr. Rao. "This partnership represents a more concerted effort among governments, the business community, and civil society to address this issue head on. Merck for Mothers is honored to be part of this unique initiative."

To follow the high-level part of the conference live online, including Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Støre's speeches, visit: http://media01.smartcom.no/Microsite/dss_01.aspx?eventid=6832 (broadcast from around 15:00 – 16:30 (GMT+2), Friday 1 June).

The press conference after the conference, in which Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Støre will participate, will also be transmitted live online: http://media01.smartcom.no/Microsite/dss_01.aspx?eventid=6833 (broadcast from 16:30 – 16:50 (GMT+2), Friday 1 June).