Hundreds of thousands of women, nearly all of them in developing countries, die in childbirth every year, but this does not have to be the case, says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling for global support for United Nations efforts to make motherhood safe for all.
“No woman should have to pay with her life for giving life,” he writes in an opinion piece published in the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman and several other media outlets, ahead of Mother’s Day, which will be celebrated in many countries this weekend.
Mr. Ban notes that saving mothers’ lives involves simple blood tests, a doctor’s consultation and someone qualified to help with the birth. The risk of death can almost be eliminated with the addition of some basic antibiotics, blood transfusions and a safe operating room.
While recent figures show that progress is being made in helping women around the world, there is still much more work to be done, he says. Of particular note is the fact that of the hundreds of thousands of women that die in childbirth every year, 99 per cent of them are in developing countries.
“On my travels around the world, particularly to its poorest and most troubled places, I have learned that it is mothers who keep families together – indeed, who keep entire societies intact. Mothers are society’s weavers. They make the world go round,” states Mr. Ban. “Yet too often, the world is letting mothers down.”
He points out that in the rich world, when a mother dies giving birth it is assumed that something went wrong, while in the developing world, dying in childbirth is simply a fact of life.
In some countries, one woman in eight will die giving birth, he states. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.
The Secretary-General notes that in poor countries, pregnant women often must fend for themselves, with no healthcare and nowhere to turn. They give birth at home, perhaps with the help of a midwife who most likely has no medical training.
Last month, the UN launched a joint action plan with governments, businesses, foundations and civil society organizations to advance safe motherhood worldwide. Reducing maternal mortality by three quarters is among the ambitious targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Mr. Ban, who himself was born not in a hospital but at home in a small village in his native Republic of Korea, urges that everything be done to make motherhood safer for all and to end this “silent scandal.”