I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without my mother. She has been my role model, my cheerleader and my inspiration. She has more ideas, compassion and spunk than anyone I know. Where would I be now if she had not been a constant in my life? This weekend in North America, we focus attention on mothers in recognition of Mother’s Day. It’s an important holiday that has been celebrated on this continent for almost 100 years. One of the things I’m going to do this weekend to celebrate the occasion is to help raise money to keep mothers alive.
This Sunday – on Mother’s Day – about 800 women will die because of complications of pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, every day about 800 women die from preventable causes in the process of becoming mothers. A full 99% of those deaths occur in low-income countries. The loss of 800 mothers every day must be stopped. It is a calamity that can and should be prevented.
A look at worldwide maternal mortality rates shows just how unequally this kind of suffering is distributed in the world. The graph below is one simple indication. My son Jacob is my best source for learning about cool things on the Internet. This graph uses one of the great tools to which he introduced me… Google Public Data. It’s like a DIY version a Hans Rosling presentation. This afternoon I looked up the maternal mortality rates for three of the countries that are particularly important to me. Have a look at how the mortality rates differ.
The amazing thing about trying to prevent maternal deaths is that some of the answers are so simple. One great solution is to increase access to skilled birth attendants. According to a 2011 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey, only ten percent of expectant mothers delivered with the help of a skilled provider. This is one of the reasons that I am so committed to training health workers in the world’s least-resourced countries.
If you are having trouble thinking of a Mother’s Day gift, maybe you could give a gift that would save the life of a mother. I can suggest several wonderful organizations where a donation would be well used to help mothers. Here are some of my favourites:
- Dignitas International – saving mothers and babies by preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV
- Stephen Lewis Foundation - supporting community organizations that help women, orphaned children, grandmothers and people living with HIV and AIDS
- Save the Mothers – innovative training programs to promote maternal health