by Robert Wilkinson
I read a Nicholas Kristof column in the NYT today that I felt added to how we can truly celebrate mothers everywhere, now and into the future. This is about saving lives.
My title today is cribbed from his, "Celebrate: Save a Mother." By all means check out the entire piece when you're done here. For those with a short attention span, I'll include some parts here that may whet your appetite.
He makes the point that by the time today is over, we'll have spent around $14 BILLION on food, flowers, and jewelry. That's a lot of money, and certainly the mothers of America (and of course the rest of the world!) are well worth the honor, given what they put up with the rest of the year. However....
Let's consider for a moment moms all over the world, and the other side of what it takes to become one. Having had a wife who came to within minutes of dying from an ectopic pregnancy, I am well aware of what millions of women globally go through just to bring forth a living being.
It is an unfortunate fact that millions of women in the US and the rest of the world still die in pregnancy and childbirth. And it blows my mind that US ranks between 37th and 41st in maternal mortality. So much for what we're told about "the greatest medical system in the world."
Anyway, in the column the point is made that if we were to spend that $14 Billion on other things, it would change the world forever. Here are a few examples:
.... it’s enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school. That would pretty much end female illiteracy... it appears that there would be enough money left over for programs to reduce deaths in childbirth by about three-quarters, saving perhaps 260,000 women’s lives a year.
There would probably even be enough remaining to treat tens of thousands of young women suffering from one of the most terrible things that can happen to a person, a childbirth injury called an obstetric fistula. Fistulas leave women incontinent and dribbling wastes, turning them into pariahs — and the injuries are usually fixable with a $450 operation.
Maternal mortality is far more common in Africa and Asia. In the West African country of Niger, a woman has about a one-in-seven lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy complications.... it’s also worth noting that birth control is an excellent way to reduce deaths in childbirth. If there were half as many pregnancies in poor countries, there would be half as many maternal deaths.
It’s certainly not inevitable that women die in childbirth, and some poor countries — like Sri Lanka — have done a remarkable job curbing maternal mortality. But in many places, women’s lives are not a priority.
There are many worthy international organizations that are working for better health for women and families, from CARE to Save the Children to UNICEF International. (I wish I could endorse UNICEF USA, but I can't for a variety of reasons. If you want to donate, please make it to the international organization and specify what program you want your donation to go to.)
Others he lists in the column are the tiny Edna Maternity Hospital in Somaliland (link takes you to a video he did a while back on the effort) with Women Deliver and the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood doing advocacy work. And the Fistula Foundation and Worldwide Fistula Fund help women who have obstetric fistulas. You can find out more by going to his blog, On the Ground.
Thanks to Nicholas Kristof for putting the focus this Mother's Day on the millions of mothers who suffer needlessly and some ways we can help end that suffering. And of course that means a bigger thanks to Mrs. Kristof for being such a great mother!
Copyright © 2010 Robert Wilkinson