In 1990, for every 100,000 live births, 385 mothers died. Because of this high number, the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), focused an entire goal (Goal 5) on improving Maternal Health and worldwide maternal health became more widely acknowledged as imperative to development. During the years of the MDGs, 2000-2015, the maternal mortality rate dropped for countries that put in the effort to make the change. However, globally, maternal mortality is still a huge concern. As a part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goals 3 and 5 on ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’ and ‘Gender Equality,’ respectively, have targets specifically focused toward women who are mother’s and their health and wellbeing. And this is essential. Without proper maternal health care being afforded to mothers, we cannot hope to achieve gender equality or move forward with the SDG platform.
While maternal health should be seen as paramount to sustainable development, in many countries there is still a high maternal mortality rate. Globally, maternal death during childbirth has decreased since 1990, but that does not change the fact that women are still dying when giving birth. This is especially concerning, because in most cases these deaths are preventable.
Most of these deaths occurr in the Global South, in areas where there are little resources and births are attended by those who have little or no training. The largest cause of death occurs when women are giving birth due to bleeding and infection. But these are easily treatable if women are able to be monitored and have those with the resources to check and be sure that they are staying healthy. Countries that made a concerted effort to reduce maternal mortality between 2000 and 2010 provide inspiration and guidance on how to accomplish the acceleration necessary to substantially reduce preventable maternal deaths.
Surviving birth then brings on another set of challenges for women who are mothers. For mothers, maternal health access is not the only health care that matters to them. Being able to keep their infants healthy is essentail. Nonetheless, 5.9 million children under the age of 5 years died in 2015 and more than half of these early deaths were due to conditions that could be prevented with access to healthcare. Reducing infant mortality is reproductive justice and allows mothers around the globe to protect their children. Similarly, access to sexual and reporductive health and rights (SRHR) education can help reduce maternal mortality by providing women access to information and resourcces. In fact, according to the UN Foudnation Universal Access Project, “Providing family planning information, services, and supplies to the more than 200 million women who want to use family planning but do not have access could reduce maternal mortality by up to one-third and infant mortality by one-fifth, while significantly reducing maternal and newborn healthcare costs.” Understanding your reproductive health and knowing your rights can keep women healthy and safe during their reproductive years and allow them more agency to choose when and how they become mothers.
At Women Thrive Alliance, our global feminist network has hundreds of gender equality advocates in over 50 courntries. Organizations such as Solidarité Burundaise pour la Lutte contre le Sida et le Paludisme au Burundi, and Women's Capacity Building and Development Organization in Afghanistan are working to ensure that maternal health is recognized as an essential part of the SDG framework. The work that our members do forces governments to take notice and advocate for better conditions for mother’s health and well-being. This Mother’s Day we cannot take mother’s for granted. We must remember that around the world, women are literally dying as they become mothers and this is a cost they should not have to bear.
Women Thrive Alliance is a global feminist advocacy network with one goal: make gender equality a reality. We believe that gender equality can only be achieved through a grassroots-led, bottom-up approach to development that is centered on those most marginalized by patriarchy. Want to join the movement and support the work of our Alliance members who work to make sure mother's are getting the maternal care and support they need, consider making a donation today.