White Ribbon Alliance and Maternal Mortality

The White Ribbon Alliance, a terrific NGO that focuses on reducing maternal mortality worldwide

According to The World Health Organization, globally, maternal mortality is the leading cause of death among women and of girls of reproductive age.  More than 1500 women and girls die every day from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth; that translates to around 550,000 annually.  While it is difficult to measure pregnancy-related injuries and disabilities, estimates vary from 16 to 50 million annually, and include conditions such as haemorrhage, infection, brain seizures, hypertension, anaemia and obstetric fistulae.

Maternal mortality is one of the cornerstone indicators to assess the quality of a country’s health care system.  In countries where the political, and consequently, the basic public health infrastructure is tenuous, like Afghanistan and Somalia, maternal mortality remains quite high.

“Adolescent girls and young women need greater access to information, education, services and resources that will empower them to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, including contraceptive use, safe abortion, birth spacing, pre- and post- natal care, and management of pregnancy and childbirth related complications,” said Neha Sood, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights’ member from India. “This resolution highlights the need for governments to protect and protect women and girls’ rights to seek and receive such information, education and services and have access to resources.”

If only it were so easy.  I believe the steps toward progress, in the immediate sense, is as Sood says, the widespread dissemination of information about reproductive health.  But some of the most helpful strategies, safe abortion, birth spacing, contraceptive use, and aspects of pre and post natal care, in many developing countries relies on the judgment of the man of the household, which may or may not be in the best interest of the mother.  Here, you’re fighting centuries worth of chauvanism and the entrenched prejudice of a woman’s role as childbearer and mother. Though you can seldom fight a mindset, you can advocate for choices that make someone’s life better and more fulfilling.

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