State of the World’s Mothers

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

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Lena T.
Lena T.4 years ago

It is in fact a heroic act to be a Mother for some, which is so often underestimated. Especially when leaders of countries try to increase birth rate having no idea what it takes for a woman whose husband is suffering from alcoholism. This is too bad!
Not to be so pessimistic, though, Happy Mother's Day to all who have the courage.

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Michele G.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks :)

Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

Motherhood is praised as long as men don't do it.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Hhmm, just thinking, isn't it about time the paternalistic dominance made a big shift towards the maternal side, the earth and we all could do with some CARING!

Carol Smith
Carol Smith4 years ago

Sometimes the distaff gender can use thought. Their muscles overpower women easily. And birth control might not be accessible when a woman gets raped. Maybe they have cancer of adrenal or reproductive systems not being screened at all, and are too horny. Maybe they think of women, minority or otherwise, as form of toilet paper for their crotches. Not all are responsible when pregnancy occurs. Mother might be hard put to support child, and global census concerns, food supply, etc. might indicate abortion not bad thought. Though child might have had great mental potentials too.

DobieMax Wojcik
DobieMax WoBib4 years ago


Siti Rohana
Siti R.4 years ago

let's do whatever we can! thanks for the article.

Dotti Lydon
Dotti Lydon4 years ago

Happy Mothers Day to all. Mothers with children, Mothers without or step children, foster children and those lucky enough to have an animal child.

NoEmails H.
Beba h.4 years ago

Happy Mother's Day to deserving mothers--I have never had children but have 3 rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats that are my babies. They are my little family so I feel I am a mother at heart.