By Caroline Kinsella, Advocacy and Communications Intern, White Ribbon Alliance
One of the more hidden human rights abuses around the world is the fact that one billion people have no legal proof of identity. Alarmingly, UNICEF estimates that about one in four children under age 5, or 166 million, are unregistered and without any trace that they exist. Conversations about reducing global poverty and protecting the health and human rights of mothers and newborns must include the challenges of birth registration.
A single piece of paper has the power to transform a person’s future. Birth certificates are necessary to access government services, life-saving medical treatment, a nationality and age related legal protections. Legal proof of birth is often required to attend school and apply to higher education, as well as open a bank account and vote. Many of the individuals without a birth certificate today are children who were never registered at birth. In some cases, nobody knows for decades that a child does not have a birth certificate.
In Uganda, Senfuka Samuel, who goes by Sam, applied for a master’s degree program that required a birth certificate. As he did not have one, Sam had to venture to the hospital where he was born. There, he discovered that hospital records before the year 2000, including any proof of his birth, were destroyed in the civil war. Traveling hundreds of miles over two weeks, Sam spent his own money to first get issued a necessary ‘birth notification’ – a slip of paper with birth details handwritten by a midwife – to later gain a new legal birth certificate.
Tomorrow at President Biden’s first G-7 meeting as commander-in-chief, an announcement will be made by the White Hourse outlining $4 billion in funding that will provide Covid vaccines to 92 low-and-middle income countries. Thus far, Covid vaccines have been made readily available to rich nations while poorer nations have previously been relegated to months-long delays. Now, with this infusion of money through a multilateral agreement, that wait will be substantially decreased.
Biden will use the G-7 to rally support and additional funding from fellow leaders. $2 billion of the funding will be released right away to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance with the remaining $2 billion depersed over the course of two years with the caveat that other rich countries make good on their pledges. The United States reentry in the global health community especially the World Health Organization is a stanch repudiation of Trump’s withdrawal from the world health’s governing body.
This year while we are all still mostly locked down due to Covid-19, there are ways in which we can donate to the issues we care about most. For SocialGoodMoms.com, our primary issue is mothers — always has been and always will be — and there are a vast majority of ways to help moms across the globe through donations this time of year.
Here are five organizations to donate to this Valentine’s Day to spread not only love, but maternal health and wellness.
In 2020, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) along with then California senator Kamala Harris introduced the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, a series of nine bills that took racial disparities out of the maternal health outcomes, funded communty-based maternal health organizations, improved data collection, and invested in digital health tools among other pertinent issues. While the legislation didn’t gain much traction, legislators believe it could get passed in a Democratic-led Congress.
This week, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Actof 2021 was reintroduced by members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus to include three new, individual bills for Covid-19, maternal vaccines, and climate change bringing the Act to 12 overall bills to reduce black maternal mortality.
The newly-included bills are the Maternal Health Pandemic Response Act of 2020 introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) looks to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on pregnancies. The Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act, led by Representative Lauren Underwood (IL-14) & Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) will address climate change-related risks on pregnancies, and the Maternal Vaccination Act, led by Representative Terri A. Sewell (AL-07) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), provides funding for programs to increase maternal vaccination rates, protecting both new moms and their babies.
The Momnibus Act is supported by over 190 organizations and is co-sponsored by16 senators, and several members of the House of Representatives.
It was a sunny afternoon as most days are in Ethiopia in April. I was taking an individual tour of a large hospital in the middle of Addis Ababa where I got to talk to doctors, nurses, and see waiting rooms and even patients who were recovering from care.
I distinctly remember the room of women who had recently had abortions or were awaiting one. The room was eerily silent despite the number of patients in the large recovery room with few windows and no air conditioning. Personal effects were on all of the beds: blankets, purses, food, extra clothes . Some of the women had female visitors, others did not. While the Ethiopian abortion law on the books is considered “semi-liberal” by African standards, there is some pushback on abortion services although in practice if a woman wants an abortion she can most likely get one. This is mostly to help decrease maternal mortality rates and to curb the rates of unsafe abortions.
As I concluded my tour, the last room I saw was where the abortions took place with all of its machines and lone hospital bed. At that moment I was glad that despite the law, these Ethiopian medical professionals along with the hospital’s policy allowed women to have a choice about their own bodies and reproductive rights.