South Africa has extremely high maternal mortality levels. This is true when compared with developed countries as well as other developing countries.
According to the World Health Organisation, for every 100,000 live births in the country in 2015, 138 women died due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. In Sweden, fewer than five women die for every 100,000 live births. In Brazil, the estimate is 44 women for every 100,000 live births.
People the world over come here every day looking for family planning information. Knowing that, I have decided to create a compendium post of sorts about everything I have learned and seen about family planning in my travels to and reporting from sub-Saharan Africa over the past few years.
I first learned about the critical importance of family planning when I covered the London Family Planning Summit a few years ago. Melinda Gates, along with key partners, called on governments and civil society to lay out a strategic plan to provide family planning services and contraceptives to 120 million underserved women in low-and middle-income countries. Currently there are 222 million women around the world who would like to space or delay their pregnancies.
Read the current Family Planning 2020 Progress Report with full commitments since the 2012 Summit. Undoubtedly there is a long way to go to reach the unmet need for modern contraceptives, but the initial commitments have been promising. $1.3 billion USD in funding for family planning was delivered in 2013 enabling 8.4 more women and girls to have access to modern contraceptives.
At the London Summit, I will remember the commitments read by country representatives. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyeseus, former Minister of Health of Ethiopia, stood out. He said, “Inaction is no longer an option. It’s not what we promise today, but what we do when we get back home.”
Below are photos of family planning services and programs as well as modern contraceptives from Addis Ababa, Lusaka, Johannesburg and Dar es Salaam.
In an earlier piece today, How is Haiti Faring Five Years After the Earthquake, development and recovery effort data and details were rather pessimistic. The numbers bear out that while some overall development achievements have been met, there is still a long way to go to help Haiti fully recover. And, yet, there continues to be successes all over Haiti. Our partners are helping to make these successes happen.
SOS Children’s Villages
On January 10, 2015, SOS Children’s Villages opened its third village for orphaned children in Les Cayes, Haiti. 63 children will be provided a home. For over 30 years, SOS Children’s Villages has provided family-based care and education programs in Santo and Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Immediately following the earthquake SOS Children’s Villages took in 400 orphaned children and fed 24,000 children every day.
“The biggest challenge for SOS Children’s Villages during the earthquake was to find a way to welcome these children because the village was too small,” said Celigny Darius, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages – Haiti. “We installed temporary houses to enable us to take them in.”
In addition to the opening of its third village, SOS Children’s Villages has invested in six schools to renew education on the island. And 3000 children receive support through their community centers.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 49 million women use traditional methods of family of no family planning methods at all. In Ethiopia, 39.1 percent of women use modern contraceptives up from 15 percent in 2005. The current low rate of contraceptive use in Ethiopia is a result of a combination of factors: cultural biases as well as a lack of trained health workers that can reach every woman in the country. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country behind Nigeria with 90 million people and only has a few hundred OBGYNs. There is currently only one obstetrician for 1.8 million women in Ethiopia.
That said, Ethiopia’s federal government has done an exceptional job training health workers since its Health Extension Workers program officially launched in 2003. Now 34,000 women strong, Ethiopians are afforded access to skilled health workers in their villages and cities, but there is still an unmet need for reproductive health and family planning services from health professionals.
The University of Michigan was recently gifted an anonymous $25 million dollar grant to train Ethiopian doctors in reproductive health services. University of Michigan’s new Center for International Reproductive Health Training will train incoming doctors, nurses and midwives in comprehensive family planning services at seven medical schools across Ethiopia. The first phase of the grant will be used to build upon the work the University of Michigan is already doing at St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa.
“Every day, women across the globe are dying and suffering from poor health outcomes because they don’t have access to high quality, comprehensive reproductive health care,” says Senait Fisseha, M.D., J.D., the center’s director in a statement. Fisseha, who was born in Ethiopia, is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the U-M Health System.
“We are overwhelmingly grateful for this extraordinary grant that allows us to build on our strong foundation of global reproductive health programs and continue to pursue a longtime dream to provide all women a full scope of high quality reproductive health care when and where they need it.”
With a maternal mortality ratio of 420 per 100,000 live births in Ethiopia, family planning services are essential to keep more mothers alive, especially teenage mothers who are not prepared physically to bear children. The average Ethiopian woman has 5.5 childrenaccording to the most recent demographic data.
“Our center will help empower women to make their own decisions about their own reproductive health, thereby choosing whether and when to start a family,” Dr. Fisseha continued. “Our ultimate goal is to help train future generations of capable and competent health care providers in many parts of Africa and South Asia who can deliver comprehensive reproductive health services, and also be advocates for the safest and best health care possible at every stage of a woman’s life.”
2014 was a very good year! We partnered with leading NGOs and nonprofits to advance causes that mean the difference between life and death and quality living for the world’s poorest citizens. We traveled around the world to report on water and sanitation, newborns, maternal health, disaster relief, and health workers. We traveled domestically to report on some of our partners’ milestone seminars, conferences, and panels. But most importantly, we kept the momentum going to work collectively as mothers who use social media for good.
We very much look forward to 2015 and what it has in store. Here are our twelve highlight moments of 2014 – in no particular order.