A colleague recently shared the quote, “A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” While in countries like Afghanistan, Nigeria or Ethiopia, a mother might not be forgoing pie per se, she is often making a range of other sacrifices for her family.
And unfortunately too many women — in developing countries in particular — are making the ultimate sacrifice. The good news is that things are changing. According to a 2010 study in The Lancet, investments in maternal health care over the last few decades have led to a decline in maternal mortality, from 526,300 deaths in 1980 to 342,900 deaths in 2008.
If you’ve been active online recently, you’ve probably noticed that more people are paying attention to maternal mortality, and certainly more big names are becoming active advocates for the issue. From Laura Bush’s touching message with the One Campaign to Christy Turlington Burns’ new film No Woman, No Cry (showing on the Oprah Winfrey Network this weekend), leaders and activists are joining the cause and raising their voices. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times highlighted ways we can help mothers in his Thursday column; the Economist Film Project and PBS NewsHour partnered on a special segment about maternal death in Nigeria; and groups, like Women Deliver, Care, Pathfinder International, and Every Mother Counts are mobilizing supporters to take action to improve maternal care.
This momentum is heartening. But more change is needed. If we truly want to improve the state of the world’s mothers — and help save women’s lives around the world — we need more voices, more energy, and more funding.
In her ONE video, Laura Bush points out that USAID is strongly invested in improving women’s health. And certainly millions of dollars from not just the United States, but also other leading governments, are focused on this issue. However, we cannot stop there. Ninety percent of maternal deaths are preventable. If we invest strategically, we can nearly eradicate maternal death. For instance, a recent Guttmacher report shows that if we fully meet the need for family planning and reproductive health services, maternal deaths would drop by 70% in Sub-Saharan Africa.
If we want to support women this Mother’s Day — if we want mothers to be able to not sacrifice that proverbial pie — we need to continue to push leaders, funders, governments, and other thought leaders to invest in women’s health. Only then can we declare that the state of the world’s women is where we want it to be: strong women, living healthy, fulfilling lives.
Photo from Every Mother Counts