State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Earth Institute Receives $1 Million From MacArthur Foundation for Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative

NEW YORK, September 1 – The Earth Institute, Columbia University is pleased to announce a $1 million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to help improve the health of mothers and children in poor, rural communities within the Millennium Villages project (MVP). These funds will support activities to increase access to quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and to assist governments with national scale-up programs of best practices learned from MVP. Specifically, the grant will allow continued advisory work, improved and expanded SRH services and access to a wider range of contraceptive commodities throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Mother and child in the Ikaram, Nigeria Millennium Village

“Globally more than 340,000 women die each year due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, most of which could be prevented with appropriate maternal health care,” said Milena Novy-Marx, MacArthur’s Program Officer for Global Security and Sustainability. “MacArthur works to reduce maternal mortality and ensure that women have access to the services they need. Our partnership with the Earth Institute will enable the continuation of this important work in providing quality sexual and reproductive health services in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Improving child survival and reducing maternal mortality are focal points of the MVP. The Earth Institute anticipates that the SRH project will improve access to clinics and skilled health professionals, increase HIV testing and the prevention of mother to child transmission, and reduce maternal, infant and child mortality rates. An appropriate range of contraceptive choices will also be available to all women in the Millennium Villages on a consistent and reliable basis, and providers will be well trained to counsel and administer method of choice.

“There are functioning, staffed, and well-equipped health clinics across the Millennium Villages and early evidence suggests that their presence is beginning to pay off,” said Sonia Sachs, Director of Health, Millennium Villages project.  Most women in rural areas deliver babies at home without trained medical personnel. As a result there’s greater chance for complications during childbirth. “Delivery at the clinics has increased along with the presence of skilled birth attendants,” said Sachs.” The MacArthur Foundation grant allows us to build on these achievements and establish short and long-term sexual and reproductive health measures.”

Health clinic in Bonsaaso, Ghana Millennium Village

The positive impact on sexual and reproductive health so far is evident throughout the Millennium Villages in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to MVP intervention in 2006, just 9% of women in Ruhiira, Uganda delivered children with the aid of skilled birth attendants. In 2009, approximately 42% of births were delivered by skilled birth attendants and the health staff has increased from 10 personnel—none of whom were medical doctors—to 53 staff, including two medical doctors and 13 midwives, serving the entire cluster population. There have been similar achievements in Bonsaaso, Ghana, where assisted births have increased from 30% of deliveries to 61% in only three years. This increase was the result of community education, infrastructure improvements, newly constructed and rehabilitated health clinics and additional staff hiring and training. The experience in Ghana has highlighted the importance of a holistic, cross-sectoral strategy for improving institutional delivery rates and, furthermore, demonstrated that success can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.

About the Earth Institute
The Earth Institute’s mission is to mobilize the sciences, education and public policy to achieve a sustainable Earth. Through interdisciplinary research among more than 500 scientists in diverse fields, the Institute is adding to the knowledge necessary for addressing the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. With over two dozen associated degree curricula and a vibrant fellowship program, the Earth Institute is educating new leaders to become professionals and scholars in the growing field of sustainable development. We work alongside governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individuals to devise innovative strategies to protect the future of our planet.

About the Millennium Villages project
The Millennium Villages Project is a partnership initiative between the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Millennium Promise Alliance, and UNDP, working with impoverished rural communities to apply evidence based policies and interventions recommended by the UN Millennium Project combined with local on-the-ground knowledge and experience. The core idea of the MVP is to demonstrate that investing in practical interventions – such as improved seed and fertilizers for raising crop productivity, nutrition and school meals, long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets to reduce malaria, clinics to dispense effective treatment and care, and safe drinking water – would lead to a transformation in village life. The 80 Millennium Villages, covering 500,000 people in “hunger hotspots”, in ten sub-Saharan African countries with varying agro-ecological settings, demonstrate that the Millennium Development Goals are achievable with the right approach and level of investment.

About the MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at

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