May 10, 2010

Mothers Day Every Day.

I hope that everyone had a great Mother's Day, celebrating your mother and thanking her for the love, support and encouragement she has bestowed on you over the years. Even if celebrated in spirit only, hopefully your Mother's Day was full of warm and wonderful memories. And also, congratulations to all of my friends who are new moms this year and celebrating Mother's Day for the first time being on the opposite side of the celebrations! Cheers to many future celebrations to come.

(My mother (right) and my godmother (left) at Cashions in Washington, DC, 2009)

In the spirit of this celebratory occasion, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce the global campaign, Mothers Day Every Day. This campaign, jointly launched by the White Ribbon Alliance and CARE International, is dedicated to raising awareness and calling for greater U.S. leadership to strengthen national health systems and increase the presence of skilled health workers in communities.

It is estimated that over 500,000 women die each year due to complications developed during pregnancy and childbirth, while millions more suffer debilitating illnesses and lifelong disabilities. The solutions to end this travesty are readily available, and proven to work. The vast majority of maternal deaths are avoidable when a women has access to quality health care before, during, and after childbirth. Access to basic services like clean water, sanitation and skilled health workers are proven to significantly increase maternal and infant survival rates.

Maternal health is one of the best indicators of global health systems; investments can have a tremendous impact. By investing in affordable measures to improve maternal and newborn health, we can also achieve other important health and security outcomes. When women survive childbirth, the benefits are exponential: their children are more likely to survive past age five, be educated, vaccinated and contribute to the peace and stability of their countries. In short, healthy mothers create healthier families, communities and nations. Celebrating women by ensuring they survive chilbirth matters to everyone: men and women, public and private sector, Democrats and Republicans, the US and the rest of the world.

Consider these facts:

  • Every minute a woman dies in pregnancy and childbirth. Each year more than 536,000 women die due to complications developed during pregnancy and childbirth and 10 million more suffer debilitating illnesses and lifelong disabilities.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death and disability for women in developing countries. While maternal mortality is a global problem, 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries where the lifetime risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 76, compared to 1 in 8,000 in industrialized countries
  • When a mother dies, her child's survival is threatened. Infants of mothers who do not survive the delivery are more likely to die within two years. Every year, an additional two million children worldwide are maternal orphans.
  • Maternal mortality has long-term implications on a child's education, care and health. When a mother dies, enrollment in school for younger children is delayed and older children often leave school to support their family. Children without a mother are less likely to be immunized, and are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth. The implications for girls tend to be even greater, leading to a continued cycle of poverty and poor health.
  • Low-cost, low-tech interventions have an immediate and meaningful impact for mothers and newborns. Skilled care by nurses, doctors or midwives before, during and after childbirth – including family planning, skilled health worker attendance and emergency medical services – are cost-effective interventions that would prevent 80 percent of maternal deaths. A package of maternal health services costing less than $1.50 (U.S.) per person could make significant improvements in women's health in the 75 countries where 95 percent of maternal and child deaths occur.

Interested in learning more?

No Woman, No Cry is a documentary film by Christy Turlington Burns, where she explores and shares the stories of four women from around the world as they face at-risk pregnancies and complicated deliveries, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States. Below is the film trailer:

Full feature length film screenings will happen in these locations in the coming weeks:


Are you ready to take action?

Join the White Ribbon Alliance (its free!):

Of if you are feeling especially generous (and lucky compared to millions of mothers around the world) -- Contribute to the UNFPA Safe Motherhood Campaign:



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