Maternal Health Key To Empowering Women

By Amnesty’s Women’s Human Rights Coordination Group

Next week, we’ll be concluding our Mother’s Day blog series by looking at the international dimensions of maternal mortality.  Today we’d like to focus on maternal health as a key to empowering women worldwide.

Globally, motherless children are 10 times more likely to die within two years of their mothers’ death.  A mother’s health and nutrition, what care and assistance she received during her pregnancy and delivery determined whether she and you are alive today, and whether you are battling with developmental problems, birth defects, or illnesses, including perinatal HIV.

Every 90 seconds a woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. This is 1,000 women, or more than 2 filled-to-capacity jumbo jets crashing daily.  Amnesty International considers this a human rights scandal, not only because almost all of these deaths are preventable, but because they are the culmination of abuses and discrimination against women, from insufficient access to basic healthcare, lack of comprehensive family planning and reproductive healthcare services, early marriages, gender-based violence, to inadequate redress.

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Tell Congress: Pass Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011

On Sunday you called your mom. Today, call on your elected officials to protect maternal health.

This Wednesday, May 11, a Mother’s Day briefing on Capitol Hill will shine a light on the maternal health care crisis in the United States. Featured guest Christy Turlington Burns, maternal health advocate and director of No Woman No Cry, will join Amnesty International researcher Nan Strauss and others to advocate for the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011.

Drafted to address some of the most pressing recommendations in Amnesty International’s report on maternal mortality in the US, Deadly Delivery, this innovative bipartisan legislation would:

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Why Midwives And Maternal Health Need To Go Hand-In-Hand

On the International Day of the Midwife, we have a guest post from Jennie Joseph, a midwife in Winter Garden Florida. Jennie is owner and clinical director of The Birth Place, a full-service midwifery clinic and birth center and developer of the JJ Way, a midwifery curriculum geared toward eliminating disparities. She is featured in Christy Turlington Burns’s documentary “No Woman No Cry” that we blogged about yesterday.

Talk is cheap! But right now talk is also becoming effective! When it comes to mothers and babies it appears that recent talk is finally leading to action. Thanks to social networking I am beginning to hear talk from ‘the grassroots’ about the state of maternal and infant health and the need for a drastic change.  If we are ever going to be able to do better than ranking 50th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, then let’s keep talking.

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Christy Turlington Burns: Shining A Light On Maternal Health

Christy Turlington Burns is a mom, global maternal health advocate, author, filmmaker, public health student, yogi and model. Her directorial debut, No Woman No Cry, shares the powerful stories of at-risk pregnant women in four parts of the world, including the United States.

Join Amnesty International house parties to watch the film’s broadcast premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network this Saturday, May 7 (the night before Mother’s Day), at 9:30 ET/PT and again on May 8 at 1pm ET/PT.

We spoke with Christy recently about her work to improve maternal health worldwide:

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First Year of Sierra Leone’s Free Care Policy

By Kim Lanegran, Sierra Leone Country Specialist

Pregnant women at a maternity waiting house in Sierra Leone © AI

On April 27th, Sierra Leoneans celebrated two important anniversaries: 50 years of independence from Great Britain; one year of  free health care to children under five and pregnant and lactating women.

Since independence, Sierra Leone has struggled from crushing poverty, human rights atrocities and a decade of horrible civil war.  When the war ended in 2002, Sierra Leone faced many challenges, not the least of which was that it was among the very worst countries in the world to be a pregnant woman or a child.

Amnesty International played a pivotal role drawing attention to the human costs of inadequate maternal health care in Sierra Leone and helped Sierra Leoneans demand reforms from their government.  Amnesty’s work emphasizing that maternal health is a human right and that other human rights abuses, such as gender discrimination, exacerbate the failure of health care delivery was crucial.

This work continues in Sierra Leone, Africa and throughout the world. Join us in shining a light on maternal health this Mother’s Day.

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Lobby For Maternal Health In The US

Although the United States spends $98 billion a year on health care (more than any other country), women in the US actually have a greater risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications than women in 49 countries.

Every day, 2 to 3 women in the United States die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth.  About 50% of these deaths could have been prevented with better access to quality maternal health care.

This is not just an accident; this is a violation of human rights.

What can YOU do to help?

Amnesty International’s Lobby Week is coming up.  During the first week of May, volunteers from across the country will meet with their Senators and Representatives to encourage them to take action to stop these preventable maternal deaths.

We need your help to ensure the elected officials who represent you have the facts and can help to pass strong legislation to reduce maternal mortality.

So stand up for human rights and maternal health by signing up to coordinate or join a delegation to meet your elected officials. With your visits you can help save lives.