In some places people still believe in the ancient law of Hammurabi: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth-- and a life for a life. In no time or place, however, have people ever believed in the 'law' which nature all too often enforces: a mother's life as the 'price' for giving birth to her child. United Nations Secretary General Ban says, "No woman should have to pay with her life to be a mother."
Few would disagree-- but how much is being done to stop maternal deaths? The good news is that progress is being made: in 2008 the number of deaths around the globe stood at 342,900-- down considerably from 526,300 in 1980. The less good news is that much of this reflects economic progress in the two largest countries, China and India, meaning that our poorest countries still have shockingly high maternal death rates. The bad news is that to the old mix of causes of maternal death has been added the new and growing problem of AIDS: about 60,000 of the maternal deaths in 2008 were due to the disease. And there's more: in a number of states, maternal mortality is increasing. Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast all registered large increases in already high mortality rates. But poor countries with little infrastructure were not the only ones showing increased maternal death rates increased sharply in the United States
as well. These were already more than twice as high as in most other developed countries.
What can be done? In the US, I believe both our unusually high maternal and infant mortality rates will decline once universal health care has been achieved-- there is simply no other difference between us and other developed countries with much lower rates. In poorer countries it occurs to me that HopePhones
(described here by MoE
) might be part of the answer. We know the pieces of the puzzle: pregnant women require prenatal care, protection from diseases like malaria which can complicate pregnancy and childbirth, trained birth attendants and access to hospitals in emergency cases. At an even more basic level they need knowledge, clean environments, safe water and fresh, nutritious food. Organizations like Women Deliver,
in conjunction with local organizations, could design education programs both to teach mothers and train attendants. HopePhones could then provide the cell phones that would allow mothers to call attendants and attendants to consult with doctors and call for emergency back up if necessary.
Women are the glue in families and cultures. When mothers die, both fall apart.