The scandal of maternal health

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We're celebrating Mothers' Day here in the UK today which I thought provided a good opportunity to highlight the perils of motherhood in general and childbirth in particular for women in many parts of the world. So here are a few facts:

  • Every minute a woman dies in pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death  and disability for women in developing countries. While maternal  mortality is a global problem, 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in  developing countries where the lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and  childbirth is 1 in 76, compared to 1 in 8,000 in industrialized  countries.
  • When a mother dies, her child's survival is threatened. Infants of mothers who do not survive the delivery are more likely to  die within two years. Every year, an additional two million children  worldwide are maternal orphans.
  • Maternal mortality has long-term implications on a  child's education, care and health. When a mother dies, enrollment  in school for younger children is delayed and older children often leave  school to support their family. Children without a mother are less  likely to be immunized, and are more likely to suffer from malnutrition  and stunted growth. The implications for girls tend to be even greater,  leading to a continued cycle of poverty and poor health.
  • Low-cost, low-tech interventions have an immediate and  meaningful impact for mothers and newborns. Skilled care by nurses,  doctors or midwives before, during and after childbirth  –  including  family planning, skilled health worker attendance and emergency medical  services  –  are cost-effective interventions that would prevent 80  percent of maternal deaths. A package of maternal health services  costing less than $1.50 (U.S.) per person could make significant  improvements in women's health in the 75 countries where 95 percent of  maternal and child deaths occur.

I was very proud of the maternal health work that Interact Worldwide, which I used to chair, supported around the world. Thankfully the situation is improving, albeit not nearly fast enough, thanks in part to services like Janani a free ambulance service which takes pregnant women to government  hospitals and community health centres in rural India. Asha and her baby Budhiya whose photo you saw at the beginning of this post are some of the project's recent beneficeries.