Every day 800 women die due to largely preventable causes during childbirth. That number is mentioned everywhere maternal health is mentioned and championed, but it always bears repeating. Until the drastic maternal mortality numbers decline the data must remain front and center. Mothers’ lives depend on us knowing the facts.
Over the past few decades maternal health numbers have effectively decreased by 47 percent, but we still have a long way to go especially in sub-Saharan Africa where most maternal deaths occur.
Large, international NGOs and governments have put their influence and resources behind saving more mothers’ lives. But, this is a big world in which we live where there are many women who still do not have access to quality prenatal health care and who must resort to delivering their babies at home which can often be fatal for them and their newborns. Some expecting mothers, especially in the poorest sub-Saharan African countries, do not have any other choice but to deliver at home due to a lack of access to health workers and proximity to a health facility.
There are countless organizations that are working diligently to ease the burden on expecting mothers in low-resource settings and are striving to save more lives. While decreasing the number of maternal deaths may seem like a Sisyphean task in the short term, there are organizations that save mothers’ lives every day! Every life matters even if the data points don’t show significant change quickly enough.
Here are five organizations we think are doing phenomenal maternal health care work and that deserve to be supported especially during this giving season.
The Safe Delivery App is a groundbreaking mobile training tool, which can save mothers and newborns in Africa during pregnancy and childbirth. The app is developed by Maternity Foundation in cooperation with leading scientists from University of Copenhagen and University of Southern Denmark.The app aims to improve the quality of maternal and neonatal care in developing countries by teaching birth attendants in hard-to-reach areas how to manage normal and complicated deliveries through animated clinical instruction films.They are raising $100,000 to scale the app. Donate to their campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-safe-delivery-app-a-life-saving-mobile-app.
Jacaranda Healthis a social enterprise and operates as a 501(c)3 in the US. Their mission is to transform maternal health care in East Africa and make pregnancy and childbirth safer for women and newborns. “Jacaranda Health aims to provide respectful, patient-centered, kind and high-quality care during pregnancy and childbirth,” says Amie Newman, Jacaranda Health’s Director of Communication and Development.That’s why we love their work! Donate at jacarandahealth.org/our-approach/jacarandas-model/donate.
Every Mother Countshas teamed up with CrowdRise to raise essential funds to save more mothers’ lives in the seven countries, including the United States, where they work on maternal health care and prevention of maternal deaths.
Every Mother Counts was launched with the intention to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. Donate at www.crowdrise.com/EveryMotherCounts-Tower.
Midwives for Haiti: When we hear about mothers who die during childbirth they most likely succumb to hemorrhaging (bleeding to death). This is particularly sad because hemorrhaging, in most cases, is preventable. In low-resource settings, however, hemorrhaging takes the lives of countless women and it doesn’t have to happen. Midwives for Haiti has put together a program that specifically addresses postnatal care. Many women who delivered at Hospital Ste. Therese in Haiti where they work, either received no postnatal care or were sent home four hours after delivery. That is highly unacceptable and deadly.Donate at midwivesforhaiti.org/projectpostnatal.html.
Zero Mothers Die is a global partnership initiative that is equipping pregnant women in developing countries with unique mobile phones to give them access to healthy pregnancy information and healthcare that could be just a phone call away during emergencies. Their aim is to bring mobile technology solutions to pregnant women to empower them with information and enable them to seek care when they need it most.Donate at www.indiegogo.com/projects/zero-mothers-die-mobile-phones-for-pregnant-women.
We know there are countless organizations that are working with mothers to keep them alive before, during, and after childbirth, but we can’t mention them all. Please list other maternal health organizations in the comments.
Mother’s Loving Support is a non-profit volunteer organisation borne out of the founder’s desire to encourage and support women as they breast feed their babies while continuing to work outside the home.
In Zambia, breastfeeding a child is a socially accepted and encouraged step with the coming of a child, but many women in urban areas slowly transition to formula or other substitutes as the child grows or as they end their maternity leave to go back to work. Typically this happens at three months postpartum, though some women are able to extend their maternity leave in order to spend more time with their babies and nurse them for longer. When the time comes, many difficult decisions are made, one of them being how a mother can continue nursing while she goes to work?
Employment law does not have a specific allowance for nursing mothers, but at the discretion of the employers, mothers can take an hour each day to breastfeed their children, with many women able to go home during lunch hour to nurse. However, others face challenges in taking this time to nurse and this prevents them from providing breast milk for their children, thus transitioning them to substitutes earlier than is recommended. In addition, if women have not had an easy time breastfeeding, they are likely to stop at this stage.
The first time I saw open defecation was in a slum in Delhi. I was taken aback. I had always heard about open defecation, but until that point I had never seen it and couldn’t imagine it happening in an overly crowded urban area. It was also at that moment that I knew I had to learn as much as possible about the ways in which people use the bathroom, if they have one at all.
2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation and 1 billion people do not have access to a bathroom and must resort to the undignified practice of open defecation. There are 7 billion people on the planet.
Women who must defecate in the open and who also have to use the community toilets are at increased risk of violence and rape.
When I visit communities and families in low-income countries I always look for toilets and latrines to see the conditions in which people relieve themselves. Below are some photos of toilets I took in India, Ethiopia, Philippines, and South Africa.
Photo: A premature baby is shown in the postnatal ward at Cama Hospital, a major hospital for women and children, in Mumbai, India. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Premature births are now the number one killer of babies globally. Of the 6.3 million children under five who died last year, 1.1 million of them died due to complications from premature births. Most of these deaths occured within the first month of life, according to new research published in The Lancet.
“This marks a turning of the tide, a transition from infections to neonatal conditions, especially those related to premature births, and this will require entirely different medical and public health approaches,” says Joy Lawn, M.D., Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a member of the research team and a long-term advisor to Save the Children. “The success we’ve seen in the ongoing fight against infectious diseases demonstrates that we can also be successful if we invest in prevention and care for preterm birth.”
Today is the the fourth World Prematurity Day, a global awareness campaign that focuses on the number of newborns that die every year and ways in which we can help those numbers decline. With heightened attention on premature births it is only a matter of time before global prematurity rates improve just as the overall child mortality statistics have improved steadily since 1990.
Merida, Philippines – I met Jocelyn Pingos, 27, in Merida, Leyte on a bright, sunny tropical day in the Philippines. A mother of four, Jocelyn sat outside her local health center and waited patiently to have her youngest, Lenith, 10 months, looked at because of a nagging cough. Her second youngest, Jelenia, 3, was also with her. Jocelyn’s other children who are 9 and 6 were attending school.
When Jocelyn delivered Lenith earlier this year, she and her husband decided that she should have a tubal ligation two months after her delivery.
“I have no plans to have any more children,” Jocelyn said.
Jocelyn delivered her two youngest, Jelenia and Lenith, at the local hospital. Her two oldest were delivered at home. “For the first two, the midwife came to my home,” Jocelyn remembered. “The midwife wasn’t available for the last two.”
“We are very lucky the storm surge didn’t really touch my town,”said Manuel Boy’ Sia Que, the mayor of Dulag municipality. “We only had one-half to one meter storm surge.”
In Ormoc, a city about an hour and a half from Tacloban, one of the hardest hit cities during Typhoon Haiyan is also like another nearby city, Dulag. Ormoc didn’t get the huge storm surge like Tacloban that took thousands of lives, but they did bear the brunt of the torrential winds.
Elsa Morales lost everything during the storm. A single mother, her husband left her in 2005. In 2009 World Vision gave her a pig to provide a livelihood for her and her four children. She has been raising pigs organically ever since by feeding them natural plants instead of commercial feeds and creating her own fertilizers.
At everyone’s most basic level, we all want somewhere to lay our head every night. Filipinos living in the path of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan’s early morning storm surge and over 300km/hour winds lost everything within a 30-minute span, including their homes, and many, sadly, lost loved ones.
Those tracking the storm before it hit on November 8, 2013 projected that Typhoon Haiyan would reach the islands by 9 AM, but it sped up and reached landfall around 5 AM, just as everyone was sleeping. No one knew Haiyan would be as powerful as it was.
After the storm, entire families were relegated to living in tents until temporary shelter kits could be delivered. Some live in makeshift and patchwork homes built from scraps even today, and some still do not have homes to call their own a year after Haiyan. And yet, there are some families who have been given the keys to a new home, one that was creatively designed to withstand high winds, rain, and – yes – even typhoons.
It is difficult to believe one year has passed since Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines’ central islands. Claiming the lives of over 6,000 people with 1,100 still missing, Haiyan was one of the most devastating and deadly cyclones to ever hit the country.
In the aftermath of the storm, emergency efforts from non-governmental agencies commenced rather quickly. World Vision, for example, has worked in the Philippines for over fifty years and was one of the first NGO responders to the crisis. Many World Vision staff in Tacloban started helping the community as soon as they knew the whereabouts of their family members. But, the devastation and lack of communications created an environment where it took World Vision’s Haiyan Response team two days to reach Tacloban from Manila. On an ordinary day, it only takes an hour. The first order of business was to locate all local staff and then the emergency phase began.
“We started moving very quickly getting out basic necessities like food and potable water,” said Jenny MacCann, World Vision Haiyan Response Operations Director. “We also started cash for work programs and debris clearance.”
This is a young, expectant mother who lives near Butajira, Ethiopia. She was married at 13 and will deliver her first child at 15. She walked to this “lie and wait” house (pictured above) because of excessive bleeding. She lives 30 minutes up in the mountains of southern Ethiopia from the “lie and wait” house. She has never seen a health extension worker and has never been to a health post. Her experience, once again, underscores how difficult it is for Africans who live in the most remote areas of a country to access quality health care.
Her mother, who is now 38, was also married very young, at age 12. She now has eight children. Her youngest is three months old.
On November 8, the world will recognize the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, the superstorm that devastated much of the Philippines and claimed 6,300 lives. 1000 people are still reported missing.
It’s difficult to believe that it has already been a year since we were stunned by the horrific photos that raced across the wires of bloated bodies lining the streets, people sitting listless in the middle of rubble, and a huge ship in the middle of Tacloban City. While Haiyan is the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines, the 7100 islands country experiences 19 typhoons every year.
Next Monday I will head to the Philippines along with Social Good Mom and Global Team of 200 member Jeana Shandraw with our partner World Vision USA to see their recovery work on the ground since Haiyan hit the islands last year. We will see devastated areas that are a part of a “no build’ zone, community savings groups that have helped families rebuild, child trafficking protection programs funded by USAID, health centers, and area development programs. On November 8 we will attend a one-year anniversary vigil.
If you follow my work you know I travel often to see NGOs work on the ground. This will be my first time traveling with and seeing World Vision’s work and am interested to report on its recovery efforts in the Philippines. To date, World Vision has reached 760,000 people with a goal of reaching 1 million beneficiaries. World Vision has also provided 51,000 temporary shelter kits and is working with the government to ensure homes are built in safer areas among a long list of recovery services it provides.