What Has Merck Been Doing Lately to Help Mothers and Babies Survive and Thrive?

Where a mother gives birth shouldn’t determine her chances of survival, nor should it be a factor in the health and survival of her child. Of course, these factors do matter—and in a dramatic way. Around 800 women die each day due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. That’s one death every two minutes, with the vast majority of those deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. The Merck for Mothers initiative hopes to change that statistic.

Launched in 2011, Merck for Mothers, also known as MSD for Mothers, is a 10-year, $500 million initiative with the sole goal of “improving the health and well-being of mothers during pregnancy and childbirth.” It works in over 30 countries around the world and has gained powerful partners such as the Gates and U.N. foundations, as well as the global health nonprofits Jhpiego, Population Services International, and Pathfinder International.

Another major partner, Every Woman Every Child, just received $10 million in support from Merck through the Global Financing Facility (GFF). GFF is a multi-stakeholder partnership that backs country-led projects and programs working to improve the health and well-being of women, newborns, children, and adolescents.  

Related: Merck Company Foundation: Grants for Global Health

Launched by former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in 2015, GFF is the key financing platform for the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030). Ban Ki-moon also launched Every Women Every Child at the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010, which is described as “an unprecedented movement that mobilizes and intensifies international and national action” on the health challenges faced by women and children in least-developed countries.

Merck’s $10 million commitment to Every Woman Every Child through GFF marks the first private sector contribution to the fund.

While Merck's MSD for Mothers program is spread across 30 countries around the world, the initiative’s major programs are based in India, Senegal, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia. Speaking of its recent commitment to Every Woman Every Child, Kenneth Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck called women the “cornerstone of a healthy and prosperous world,” adding that Merck’s partnership with GFF “demonstrates how the private sector can play a unique role in helping to improve maternal and child health worldwide.”

While Merck donates millions of dollars to global health and development organizations around the world, it’s also worth noting that it makes some pretty major investments in for-profit outfits on a mission to improve global health and well-being.

The Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, or Merck GHI, is on the lookout for innovative technological solutions and digital health platforms—both of which certainly apply to improving maternal, newborn, and child health worldwide. Although Merck GHI holds a healthy $500 million in assets under management, it’s highly selective about its investments and has only backed 20 companies since 2010.