In July, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated: “No woman should have to pay with her life, for giving life."
World leaders must do more to make this sentiment real, and the fifth MDG--to improve maternal health--is just a starting point. Despite their promises to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters, the number of maternal deaths worldwide remains shockingly high. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that every minute a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. More than 90% of these deaths are preventable.
While the immediate reasons for this include hemorrhage, infection and obstructed labor, it is ultimately a result of inadequate, inaccessible, unaffordable or unavailable medical care and supplies. The medical solutions to this devastating problem are there, but frustratingly, a lack of political will, a lack of action and in some cases resources, are preventing the solutions from being implemented. Horrifying statistics from UNICEF suggest that a woman in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying while pregnant or giving birth compared to a 1 in 4000 risk in a developed country.
The presence of a trained midwife can make a dramatic difference to the chances of women surviving childbirth. At present nearly 50% of births in developing countries are without a health worker or trained midwife. Therefore, in conjunction with providing the necessary supplies and equipment, governments must also ensure that money is being used to train local health care workers in those countries in most desperate need. Some success has been seen in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Thailand and Honduras who all took less than 10 years to greatly reduce their maternal mortality rates.
MADRE works with Midwives for Peace, a grassroots group of Israeli and Palestine midwives who, together, are helping pregnant women in the West Bank to ensure that childbirth is a joyful, happy, healthy occasion for every woman.The Gaza blockade means that in many instances Palestinian women are denied access to medical care, with many women being forced to give birth at military checkpoints. So far twenty women and thirty six children have died as a result of the unstable and poor conditions.
Click here to learn more about MADRE's Safe Birth Project.