Lead photo: The National Forum of Bangui during the report on ‘Justice and Reconciliation’ in the capital of the Central African Republic on 9 May 2015.
The history of the Central African Republic (CAR) has been riddled with conflict since it was first established in 1960, but the past few years have been particularly upsetting. In December of 2012, fighting between the Seleka and Anti-Balaka groups began causing catastrophe. Towns were burned to the ground. Men were either recruited to fight or were killed. Women were raped, taken as slaves, or slaughtered with their children.
To complicate matters, there truly was never a good or bad side to begin with. The CAR was a poor country at the start and as seen in every major conflict, upheaval occurred when people felt they weren’t treated fairly. Unfortunately, a few bad people started propagating hate that sparked killing and pillaging. Now there is no way to ‘take back’ what has been done. The scale of the situation has spread and over a million lives have been affected in both the CAR and surrounding countries.
While there has been some international response and the storm has seemingly calmed, rebel groups are continuing to fight for power. Some areas are still controlled by armed militias leaving many who need humanitarian assistance unreachable. More than 6,000 lives have been lost since 2012 and the number continues to rise due to violence and humanitarian crises. As long as these groups continue to terrorize the countryside, innocent people will suffer.
We are excited to launch our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series with an interview with H.E. Mrs. Toyin Saraki, founder of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa. Throughout the summer we will speak with some of the most notable maternal health advocates in the world ahead of the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference that will be held in Mexico City between October 18 – 21, 2015. Follow the conversation at #MHHSS.
When did you know global maternal health was a bigger issue than you previously realized?
I became aware of the serious issues surrounding maternal health and survival over 20 years ago, when I gave birth to twins in Nigeria. I tragically lost one of my twin babies during childbirth, and then had to fight for the survival of the other. Even though I was an educated and informed woman, I was unable to save the life of my stillborn second twin daughter because of the infrastructural deficiencies in Nigeria’s healthcare system at the time, including a fatal delay in finding an anesthetist for an emergency C-section. Although I was grateful to leave this painful experience with my first twin and my own life, I realized that this experience is an unavoidable reality for many women in Nigeria, and indeed across the world.
Globally, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth every day, and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. And, where a mother suffers, her child suffers; and more than 3 million babies die before they are a month old. I founded the Wellbeing Foundation Africa to help address this heartbreaking issue that affects so many women and children. At first, my view was much more localized and I did not know all of these global statistics and the injustice that was taking place on a daily basis; but now it is these statistics, and the real life stories behind the statistics, that spur me on to continue every day.
There seems to now be a true movement underway to bring to light the high maternal mortality rate in the United States and the true state of giving birth in America especially for poor women and women of color.
Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother and that funds US-based maternal health care providers, just announced the trailer of their new docuseries, Giving Birth in America.
This week at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a new multibillion-dollar global fund was launched. Called the Global Financing Facility, the fund will pump international, domestic, public, and private financing into high-burden, low-income countries that desperately need the funds to save more of its mothers, newborns, and children. The Global Financing Facility will be housed at the World Bank.
According to the World Bank, $12 billion of the needed $33.3 billion has already been pledged to this financing effort that will support the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child. Some sources report that Norway has already pledged $600 million and Canada has pledged $200 million. Together, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States, Japan, and Canada (with a new $40 million pledge) have also committed $214 million. To date, those public numbers are far shy of the $12 billion that is said to have been “aligned” to the fund. Who pledged the additional funds I am not entirely sure. What is clear, however, is that over the course of 15 years, a total of $33.3 billion will be needed to save the lives of 4 million mothers and 101 million children and prevent 21 million stillbirths. [PDF]