MDG #5: Improve world maternal health

Terry Lai

Childbirth is supposed to be the most beautiful moment in a woman’s life. It symbolizes joy and happiness; it’s an event where family members, friends, and strangers alike rejoice and celebrate a new life brought into this world. That is the way it should be.

Sadly, for large number of mothers and babies in developing countries such as Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Mozambique and other underdeveloped nations, it can be a tragedy.

A staggering statistic released by the World Health Organization reports that in developing countries, one in 67 women die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. In developed countries the number is one in 2,800 women. In addition, every minute, a woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth somewhere in the world, for a total of 530,000 deaths in a year. For each death, another 30 to 50 suffer from injuries, infections and diseases.

These appalling statistics result from the fact that women in developing countries, and particularly those in rural areas, lack access to basic medical care during pregnancy and childbirth.

At least 35 percent of the women giving birth in developing countries receive no prenatal care and almost half give birth without a skilled attendant such as a doctor, nurse or a trained midwife.

In Afghanistan, for instance, where women’s access to health care is particularly limited, one woman in six dies in childbirth. This is shocking when compared to countries with public, well-funded health systems like Sweden, which has the lowest maternal mortality in the world: one in 29,800.

This acute problem has led the United Nations to set the improvement of maternal health as the fifth goal of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG). This goal aims to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth by 75 percent. This goal coincides with the MDG #4 (improve child mortality) because childhood health is closely tied to maternal health.

UNICEF reports that girls from 15-20 years of age are twice as likely to die in childbirth as are women in their twenties, so it is imperative that adolescents be educated on sexual and reproductive health.

The Safe Motherhood Initiative (SMI), which encourages girls to delay sexual initiation, marriage and first childbirth, is one organization helping to achieve the goal.

Also, SMI works with local governments to address gender inequality, poverty and discrimination against women. By publicly addressing these issues, society will recognize their impact on maternal health and thus provide pregnant women a greater likelihood to survive childbirth.

In doing so, this will also reduce the amount of children who die each year due to the death of their mother.

So, what can Villanova students like us do to make fifth MDG a successful one? Take action! A simple action is to write to your senators, requesting they approve more funding for basic medical care in developing countries. And believe it or not, word of mouth is another tool we as Villanova students can use. Encourage each another (friends, Residence Life, Multi-Cultural Affairs, Health and Wellness Center) to sponsor and attend awareness programs that touch on this subject matter. In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in this world.”