An apple a day keeps the doctor away, our
mothers told us. We’ve all been stocking up on apples recently while thinking about
our chances of catching the swine flu.
The recent flu pandemic has reminded us of our mortality, or at the very
least, our fragility. Sunday we celebrated
motherhood, and amidst the recent uncertainty in our lives, both with the flu
and the economic crisis, my thoughts have turned to mothers who live every day
in uncertainty, mothers who live in conflict and emergencies.
31 people have died from swine flu-multiply that by 17,290
and you come close to the 536,000 pregnant women who die every year from
largely preventable causes. That is one woman every minute. Maternal
mortality is the greatest global health inequity-99% of these deaths occur in
developing countries. The news is even
worse in conflict areas where the challenges of accessing basic health care for
women are greater, and the choices of mothers are limited. 1 in 3 of these deaths could be prevented by
providing contraceptives to those that want it.
In fact, providing 15 condoms or one month’s supply of the pill costs
the same as an apple-60 cents.
It is not surprising that the countries with the
highest maternal mortality are war-torn.
Perhaps best said by a woman in Eastern Congo,
"We are victims of war. We don’t take up
arms, but we, the women suffer the most."
As the world focuses on the continuing conflict in Afghanistan and the escalating crises in Pakistan,
it is important to remember how dangerous it is to be a pregnant women in this
region. According to a UN survey, Badakhshan, a province of Afghanistan, acquired the distinction of
having the highest maternal mortality ratio. A woman in Badakhshan is 600 times
more likely to die in childbirth than a mother-to-be in North
America. Women in
experience similar troubles.
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President Obama’s Global Health Initiative is
committed to reducing maternal mortality.
With swine flu and the economic crisis, it feels as though our stable
lives have been put on the line. But
perhaps we can put all of our distress and politics in perspective by
supporting women, like those in Pakistan
who continue to live in fragility. After
all, wouldn’t it be better if that