Archive for ‘maternal mortality’

November, 2013

‘A Life Worth Saving?’ By Amie Wilson, Midwife and Doctoral Researcher

In 2013 do we live in an age of equality? Do men and women have equal human rights? Equal pay? Equal social standing? This is a topic that is still heavily debated. On the radio this morning I heard how toy stores are going to have gender labels removed from the toy departments, no longer will we see ‘Girls Toys’ or ‘Boys Toys’. Although this is important in some schools of thought, I fear that we as a globally society sometime forget the problems faced by others in less developed countries.

In many countries across the world women are faced with a very different dilemma, this is summed up eloquently in this quote from Prof. Mahmoud Fathalla: “Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”

Professor Fathalla is talking about the silent tragedy of maternal mortality. I say silent because every year 287,000 women die due to pregnancy or birth related complications. That is 1 woman every 90 seconds. Around 800 women are dying every day, 800 mothers, sisters and wives. But these deaths do not make headlines, we do not hear about them on the radio, in fact many deaths do not even appear on death registers, they simply occur, silently.


What’s more, these deaths are not due to diseases that we cannot cure, they are not due to conditions that require complex medicines and treatment, instead almost all of these deaths could be prevented. Most of these women could be saved with low cost and simple interventions.

With this in mind I ask the same questions again. In 2013 do we live in an age of equality? Do men and women have equal human rights? Equal social standing? Would society permit 287,000 men to die needlessly each year?

We have looked to the global society to help tackle the issue of preventable maternal death, and although the tide is changing there is still a long way to go before we reach Millennium development goal 5 and reduce maternal death by 3/4th but whose responsibility is it to tackle the injustice of maternal mortality? The government’s? The World Health Organisations? Mine? Yours?

One woman who sees this as her responsibility is Dr Sophia Webster, an obstetrician and a pilot from Newcastle, who is flying a small aircraft across Africa stopping at the countries with the highest maternal death rates, to raise awareness of the tragedy of preventable maternal death. She has visited some of the most “dangerous” places in Africa on her journey, receiving enormous amounts of press attention in her campaign.  aiming to give a voice to the many voiceless pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.

But our actions do not have to match this. No matter how small we believe our voice is, we still have a voice. We can all make a stand. We can all lobby. We can all campaign. We can all support women who are unable to speak up about the injustice that they face. But first we must answer one question…..can we as a global society make the decision that so many women’s lives are worth saving?

Further links:

Maternal mortality for 181 countries, 1980–2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 5. Hogan et al.:

Maternal mortality: who, when, where, and why. Ronsmans & Graham:

Too far to walk: Maternal mortality in context. Thaddeus & Maine:

The worldwide incidence of preterm birth: a systematic review of maternal mortality and morbidity – Bulletin of the WHO

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