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The Maternal and Newborn Health Thematic Fund (MHTF) is a key contributor to the UNFPA presence and leadership of maternal health at the global level. The MHTF was established in 2008, and this evaluation covers its third phase from 2018 to 2022.

The evaluation assesses the extent to which the MHTF has contributed to strengthening health systems, improving quality of care, and advancing equity, human rights and accountability to stakeholders in 32 high-burden countries. It determines  MHTF’s ability to scale up integration of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) with maternal and newborn health (MNH) services. The evaluation also identifies key lessons and challenges of the MHTF that will inform its next phase.

The evaluation finds that, with the MHTF, UNFPA is a partner of choice providing visible and valued support to critical MNH priorities. The MHTF is a technically sophisticated tool for supporting MNH in programme countries, especially in its four priority areas of midwifery, emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC), Maternal and Perinatal Death Surveillance and Response (MPDSR) and fistula. Midwifery is the anchor of the MHTF and the cornerstone of the UNFPA MNH response. The MHTF delivers value for money, both globally and for individual countries. However, the MHTF is not clearly positioned within a holistic UNFPA MNH strategic framework. If not addressed, critical gaps highlighted by the evaluation will limit the relevance and the sustainability of the MHTF investments.

The evaluation recommends the MHTF to expand into a new phase focusing on SRHR-MNH integration and support. The MHTF should also be positioned within a comprehensive UNFPA maternal health strategy and action plan.