I am truly proud and honoured that the Malta Trust Foundation, which I established and chair, is one of the key players of such an important initiative. I am convinced that the Humanity 2.0 Platform has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of many women, children, families and our societies in general.
Therefore, it is a pleasure to address such a distinguished audience today.
The Malta Trust Foundation
As Morad requested, I will give a brief description of what the Malta Trust Foundation stands for.
The Malta Trust Foundation aims to inspire and support vulnerable young people to build a dignified life for themselves, through empowering initiatives to enhance their personal and social skills. The Mata Trust Foundation creates the right tangible opportunities for inclusion, equality, and equity.
Since its inception, the Malta Trust Foundation is supporting marginalised young people who come from vulnerable family backgrounds have lived in out-of-home care, or have had a brush with justice, amongst others, who lack education and subsequently, have no quality job prospects.
Let me share our experience of some of the important projects that the Malta Trust Foundation is conducting and that have significant relevance to Maternal Health.
One of these most important social projects of the Malta Trust Foundation is what we call the Y Assist initiative This is a one-year empowerment programme which offers support for young mothers who might be experiencing either crisis pregnancies or other types of vulnerability upon giving birth.
The Malta Trust Foundation operates through a research-based approach.
In the case of the Y Assist, the research identified that a number of young mothers not only need temporary accommodation to move out of abusive relationships but also require empowerment to develop the necessary personal life skills and positive parenting skills in order to lead a dignified life.
Other research studies show that vulnerability at the time of birth weakens the early development potential and such vulnerability consists to persist and causes disadvantages in their education when compared with their peers coming from stable family backgrounds, and throughout life.
These are the reasons that the Malta Trust Foundation decided to embark on the Y Assist program.
The Y Assist initiative provides semi-independent accommodation in the community for pregnant young women, where they are not only assisted by a psychosocial team but also supported by other relevant professionals.
The Malta Trust Foundation works in a collaborative approach to operate and sustainably maintain its social projects. Therefore, for the Y-Assist initiative, the Malta Trust Foundation is partnering with a non-governmental organisation to operate the programme and enticed members of the business community to fund the programme.
Maternal Mental Health
The Malta Trust Foundation has embarked on an important aspect of Maternal Health, which is Maternal Mental Health.
The Malta Trust Foundation has been collaborating with the Maternal Mental Health Association over a number of years. The Maternal Mental Health Association brings together the psychosocial professionals that work the Malta General Hospital, and in particular, in the Maternity Department.
The Malta Trust Foundation has been supporting this Association to create more awareness of this important aspect of Maternal Health by organising annual conferences. This is because a lacuna was identified in the area of Maternal Health.
According to indicators from the World Health Organisation, about 10 percent of all pregnant women, and 13 percent of women who have just given birth, experience a mental health disorder, particularly depression.
These indicators are even more alarming in developing countries, where over 15 percent of women, during pregnancy, and 19 percent of women, after childbirth, are reported to experience depression.
Research also shows that 50 percent to 75 percent of mothers with mental health issues are not detected, although pregnancy and the postpartum period is the time when women have the most contact with healthcare professionals.
Even in Malta, where maternal health services reach high standards, we have found that Maternal Mental Health is not given its due attention during the perinatal period, even though women tend to be followed intensively by different medical professionals.
Therefore, the need for further training of professionals was identified. Moreover, a training program was developed for a team of diverse health professionals working in Maternal Mental.
The training focused on the early identification of difficulties in perinatal mental health, and the skills needed to address them. This training program supported by the Malta Trust Foundation is serving to bring about positive social-emotional and developmental health for both mother and child.
I believe that society as a whole cannot function within its full potential unless each and every one of us is empowered. There are some of us who need to be supported to take the initial step, but with determination and perseverance, I believe we can all live full, satisfying lives, and contribute to the wellbeing of our human family.
I also believe that our biggest investment should be our investment in people, as this is an investment in the future of our world.
This is the raison d’etre of the Malta Trust Foundation to facilitate such initiatives.
As we evidence the successful outcomes we have achieved from these initiatives and experience the difference in the lives of other and children we have come in contact with, the Malta Trust Foundation is even more adamant to look to the future with more resolve.
As citizens of the world, we all have a mandate; a mandate to nurture maternal health and wellbeing as the source of life itself. We have all made a commitment, individually and collectively, to uphold the Sustainable Development Goals, …… one of which, specifically asserts the need to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all, at all ages.
Two out of the nine targets specified in the Sustainable Development Goal 3 address maternal health:
Target 3.1 commits our global family that by 2030, we must reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births.
Target 3.2 commits us that by 2030, we must end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age. All countries are committed to reducing neonatal mortality to as low as 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to as low as 25 per 1000 live births.
This is why the collaboration between the Malta Trust Foundation and Humanity 2.0 lab Platform, and other partners is so important and essential.
I feel truly proud that my country, through this collaboration between the Malta Trust Foundation and Humanity 2.0 Lab, will be a leader in promoting the improvement of maternal health and wellbeing, not only within Europe and the Mediterranean but also globally.
I give particular importance to the global perspective of maternal health and wellbeing, as data shows unacceptable disparities among nations in this area.
There has been progress. In fact, the World Health Organisation estimates that maternal mortality has fallen by 37% since 2000, while in Eastern Asia, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia, maternal mortality has declined by around two-thirds.
Yet, in developing regions, the proportion of mothers who do not survive childbirth compared to those who do is still 14 times higher than in the developed regions.
Therefore, we should ask ourselves:
Why do such inequalities persist?
What are we doing to change these realities?
Why has humanity managed to reach the moon and beyond, and yet, maternal and child mortality are still issues that persist in our societies?
Globally, more women are receiving antenatal care, but again, this is disproportionate.
In fact, in developing regions, antenatal care increased from 65 percent in 1990 to 83 percent in 2012, yet only half of women in developing regions receive the recommended amount of health care they need.
Even in Europe, one in ten women in the European Union does not have access to maternal health services in the first months of pregnancy, and nearly 1800 maternal deaths occurred in Europe in 2015. This is according to a research study by MSD for Mothers.
Data also shows that maternal health remains a critical concern also in the European region. Many women living in Europe are still unable to gain access to timely and quality healthcare, with refugee women being particularly even more vulnerable.
This same research study shows that maternal health often takes a lower priority on the healthcare agenda.
I am looking forward to another dimension of our collaboration with Humanity 2.0 Lab platform; that of further promoting Maternal Health and Wellbeing through a combination of educational programs and direct engagement with key stakeholders and policy-makers.
In fact, in a few weeks’ time, the Malta Trust Foundation, in collaboration with Humanity 2.0 Lab platform, will be holding a roundtable discussion as the first major tangible initiative of the collaboration in Malta.
All maternal health stakeholders and relevant policymakers in Malta will be invited to engage actively in the discussions, to bring maternal health to the fore and identify possible actions, which will, in turn, inform the educational programs and initiatives that will be taken up in Malta.
Malta is a perfect laboratory to pilot such initiatives, given its manageable size, its excellent track record in maternal health and the expertise achieved in the area.
The geostrategic position of Malta in the centre of the Mediterranean gives us also the advantage of a deeper understanding of the situation in our diverse region. It is therefore envisaged that through the outcomes of such a roundtable, a toolkit of good practice will be developed to be exported to other countries.
I am convinced that this collaborative approach on the initiative of Humanity 2.0 Lab will provide the unique opportunity to not only promote maternal health and wellbeing but also to make it a reality for the millions of women who are still suffering or die while giving birth.
Let us be the generation that makes childbirth a wonderful and spiritual experience for every mother and parent around the world.