A Million Moms To Prevent Maternal Mortality

Last night, Diane Sawyer hosted a 20/20 special, “Giving Life: A Risky Proposition,” focused on the challenges that women and mothers face around the world. From Sierra Leone to Bangladesh, the 20/20 team traveled the globe exploring the challenges, opportunities, and successes in addressing one of the most disturbing health facts: that every 90 seconds, a woman dies in childbirth.

One of the stories that particularly resonated with me was in Sierra Leone, where the 20/20 team followed a young American doctor, Erin Carey, as she spent two days in a government hospital. There, Erin saw what millions of women face around the world—unsanitary conditions, lack of trained personnel, overworked staff, incredible need, and women crying out for help.

One woman Erin found in the hospital had begun to suffer from postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding after childbirth. Without blood supplies, life-saving anti-hemorrhaging drugs like misoprostol, or quick surgery, women like Amanada die every day needlessly. As Erin struggled to find supplies to help, she said, “I feel extremely frustrated right now. This is why women die.”

But as the special pointed out, frustration is beginning to turn to hope. In part, because of leading nonprofit organizations like BRAC, JHPIEGO, MEXFAM, UNFPA, Pathfinder International, and many others who are focused on innovative solutions to ensure women have access to family planning, maternal care, treatment for postpartum hemorrhage and a range of other reproductive health care services. And, in part, thanks to some big names like Nicholas Kristof and Christy Turlington who have raised their voices and brought critical awareness and support to this cause, Kristof through his New York Times columns and Turlington through her recent documentary and now advocacy campaign, Every Mother Counts.

“Giving birth is Russian roulette although it’s targeted to uneducated, rural, impoverished women,” Nick Kristof said. The good news? “There are still far too many women dying, but you get the sense that change is happening.”

We know exactly how to save these lives. But as Turlington points out, it’s about whether we make this a priority, “if we’re allowing women to die, it begs the question, how do we value women?”

Part of 20/20’s goal was to connect this issue to women here in the United States. In partnership with the UN Foundation, ABC News, BabyCenter, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they started the Million Moms Challenge to gather a million moms here in the US to support millions of moms around the world.

I raised my hand and joined. And I hope you will too. As Diane Sawyer said at the end of the special, “the human race can see across boundaries, pass beyond languages, join hearts from the other side of the world.” And that’s what will truly help us ensure that no woman, no matter where she lives, faces the risk of death while giving life.


Sandra L.
Sandra L6 years ago

I almost died delivering my son, and would have but for the health care system here in Canada. As an expression of my gratitude I wanted to find a way to improve maternal health care to those vulnerable so I got involved through Global Giving in a program that educates community health care workers and another that runs a facility for delivering Moms. This isn't just talking about it, they are making a difference.

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

Thanks for the article. I saw her show and it was very moving with many things to think about.

rene davis
irene davis6 years ago


Meta Reid
Meta Reid6 years ago

I didn't get to see the entire show, I was on the road and in a hotel, but it was great. Thanks for the article. The part that I did see was on Afghanistan. It used to be that 1 in 11 women died giving birth. Now, thanks to training of midwives, the rate (although obviously not nearly good enough) is now down to 1 in 50. I'll take any small wins like this.

Joe R.
Joe R6 years ago

Thanks. Great article. (Is it just me? Or is there something about Diane Sawyer that seems insincere?)

Carole R.
Carole R6 years ago

Thank you for the information.

Brenda Towers
Brenda T6 years ago

Thanks for the information.

Clarissa W.
Clarissa W.6 years ago

i'm not a mom, but if i were, i would be one of the million moms in support of this.

JaimeAlexis F.
JaimeAlexis F6 years ago

Just to clarify...this Million Moms Challenge is not the same as another group by the same name. ABC News and partners came up with the challenge to have millions of moms here in the US support millions of women around the world. Perhaps they should have come up with another campaign if there is a radical anti-choice group with the same name. The piece did include discussion about family planning and a brief mention of the impact of unsafe abortion.

JACarlton Author
jill c6 years ago

I had to choose "No" for the poll, first off I'm not a mom and don't want to be. Second, although I wholly believe women need the best access to care possible from pregnancy to delivery, including post partum care, I would not be part of any movement that seeks to undermine a woman's choice as to whether or not she'd even want to continue carrying the child,and please someone do correct me if I'm wrong here, but teaching abstinence is only ONE part of the equation, and if I'm not mistaken aren't these "Million Mom's" also the ones that on a different page here on Care2... trying to take away choice rights for women? So no, no way in hell I'd join a group like that.