Motherhood should be safe for all women

17 05 2009

Nicholas Kristof wrote an op-ed published in yesterday’s New York Times about the plight of mothers in Sierra Leone, West Africa.  Around the globe, too many women die of childbirth when they shouldn’t have to because these deaths are preventable.  Kristof writes:

According to the World Health Organization, Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality in the world, and in several African countries, 1 woman in 10 ends up dying in childbirth. It’s pretty clear that if men were dying at these rates, the United Nations Security Council would be holding urgent consultations, and a country such as this would appoint a minister of paternal mortality. Yet half-a-million women die annually from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth without attracting much interest because the victims are typically among the most voiceless people in the world: impoverished, rural, uneducated and female.

He later builds on this:

I’ve seen women dying like this in many countries — on the first win-a-trip journey in 2006, a student and I watched a mother of three dying in front of us in Cameroon — and it’s not only shattering but also infuriating. It’s no mystery how to save the lives of pregnant women; what’s lacking is the will and resources.

What is being done about this?  Well, President Obama has restored funding to the United Nations Population Fund which renovates hospital wards, provides free medication and works to ensure that poor women in labor don’t die because they can’t afford to pay $100 for a Caesarian section.  Organizations that are working on this issue include:

White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood


Averting Maternal Death and Disability

There has also been a bill introduced earlier in March, the Newborn, Child, and Mother Survival Act, which would champion the United States as a leader in the global community in improving the health and lives of newborn babies, children and mothers.  Unfortunately this bill has not been given prompt or due attention.



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