Sexual, Reproductive & Maternal Health

Sexual, Reproductive & Maternal Health

Poor health and poverty often occur together. Therefore, CARE fights poverty by improving the health of millions of the world’s poorest people especially women and girls. In many poor countries, women in particular struggle to live full and healthy lives. CARE is improving women’s health by providing access to health services, and understanding of reproductive health, HIV prevention, and maternal care. For example, in Cambodia, we are improving access to affordable and quality public health services, upgrading health clinics and referral hospitals, and improving the skills of healthcare workers. In Papua New Guinea, we are training male and female community leaders in ways to help increase knowledge of reproductive and maternal health in remote communities. In Malawi, we are helping increase the income of women living with HIV and AIDS and helping slow the spread of the disease through education.

By the year 2020, we will help 100 million women and girls exercise their rights to sexual, reproductive and maternal health and a life free from violence.

Read our CARE 2020 programme strategy summary on Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health here. 

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Supporting sexual, reproductive and maternal health and rights is therefore central to CARE’s commitment to gender equality and reducing global poverty. Increased investment, targeted programming and supportive policies are all critical to meeting the reproductive health needs of millions of women and men. CARE believes that access to sexual, reproductive and maternal health services is both a fundamental human right and a critical development issue.

As a rights-based organisation, our programming and advocacy affirm and support girls’ and women’s right to safe childbirth, reproductive self-determination and bodily integrity. We work to reduce maternal mortality, increase healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, and the elimination of discrimination and violence. Across the world, CARE is improving the health and well-being of women, children and families by changing inequitable gender and social norms and empowering women; increasing the coverage, quality, effectiveness, responsiveness and equity of health services; and expanding and amplifying women’s voices, participation and influence in society.

During times of natural disasters and conflict, women and girls are exposed to an increased risk of sexual violence, unwanted pregnancies and overall lack of control over the situation. Our long-term sexual and reproductive health programmes focus on family planning, ante-natal care, access to services, and prevention, detection and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. This includes addressing the underlying gender inequality and gender-based violence that undermines the health of women and girls.

CARE’s programme in Uttar Pradesh, India, resulted in an increase in the proportion of women using family planning to rise from 7% to 35% and the number of women delivering their babies with a trained provider more than doubled. Our initiative also led to large improvements in reproductive health rights: current use of family planning among women was significantly associated with exposure to CARE’s programmes in Kenya (from 32% to 51%) and Ethiopia (from 32% to 61%) – see report.

Maternal Health

Want to help a community lift itself from poverty? Start with the mothers. Pregnancy and childbirth shouldn’t be a game of chance: Every two minutes, a woman somewhere in the world dies from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s lifetime risk of death due to childbirth is one in 16. Maternal mortality is nothing short of an epidemic, yet the majority of these deaths can be prevented if women have access to antenatal advice and support, trained midwives and birth attendants, life-saving treatments, and well-equipped health clinics and hospitals.

CARE believes that the realisation of the “right to health” cannot be achieved through direct services alone; large‐scale and sustainable change requires that we address underlying and systemic factors, including gender inequality, policy barriers and power imbalances that have an impact on health. We work with community leaders, women and health workers to understand and address the reasons for the high maternal death rate. We challenge social and gender norms so women can make decisions for their own health and well-being.

Child Health

Every child deserves the chance to live a healthy and secure life. However, 19,000 children younger than 5 years old die every day and more than 7 million children will die before their 5th birthday. Nearly all of these deaths occur in poor countries and almost every one of them can be prevented. CARE helps children in the poorest communities though nutritional support, vaccinations for children affected by conflict and disasters and treatment for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and polio. CARE invests in much needed basics such as adequate nutrition, bed nets and skilled health workers to keep children alive.


More than 95% of people with HIV are in developing countries. People in poor communities are at increased risk because of the effects of poverty – lack of knowledge and awareness, lack of prevention services, lack of counselling and testing, lack of access to treatment and ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs), high levels of stigma and discrimination. Women are at a higher risk of infection than men because of gender inequality – meaning they have less choice over their sexual and reproductive health. Infected children are less likely to have their basic needs met and are more likely to be sick or malnourished, suffer psychological trauma, lag behind in a series of developmental outcomes, endure abuse and become HIV positive. CARE aims to prevent infection by educating girls and boys on sexual and reproductive health. We ensure people have enough to eat and help people living with HIV to earn an income through livelihoods training and support. We provide condoms, voluntary counselling and testing and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. We advocate for policy changes to reduce discrimination and improve health support. And we help sex workers protect themselves from HIV infection and from violent discrimination by clients, police and others. CARE’s programmes on child health support children at risk of HIV to live healthier lives and aim to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

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