Blog Action Day: Dying to Give Life

October 15, 2008

The global economic crisis is shining a light on the “haves,” but things won’t change much for the “have nots.” They will still be poor, without access to clean water, sanitary and well-stocked medical facilities, a balanced diet, education, credit, and the myriad other resources that most of the world takes for granted. No subprime mortgages for a tin-roof shack. Oh, how the uber rich are suffering as they decrease their private jet travel and can no longer afford to pay preschool tuition that rivals that of some universities. They’ve garnered more attention than seniors on fixed incomes seeing their meager retirement portfolios plummet and single parents already at the tipping point.

Having visited more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa I know firsthand that global poverty remains the shame of our planet. A recent Washington Post series focused on the plight of women in childbirth in Sierra Leone, where a woman’s chance of dying in childbirth is 1 in 8. In the United States it is 1 in 4,800. In the opening article, we also learn that “More than 500,000 women a year — about one every minute — die in childbirth across the globe, almost exclusively in the developing world, and almost always from causes preventable with basic medical care.”

I have been blessed with three children, all born in clean, safe hospitals, with the most up–to-date technology available. What a difference our sisters in developing countries face, where each pregnancy is a gamble. The stakes for losing are high — mother, infant, or both. ABC News recently broadcast Saving Motherhood Across the World, highlighting the need for more focus on women and childbirth.

CARE, an AAUW partner, was recently recognized as an international organization, along with UNICEF, and Catholic Relief Services, actively working to establish rural public health clinics staffed with at least one well-trained nurse in Sierra Leone. With the intense focus on HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as malaria, “Maternal death is an almost invisible death,” said Thoraya A. Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund in the Post series.

We must continue to provide serious investment in the health and rights of women and children. Delivering healthy children is crucial for the next generation and the development of productive communities and nations. While I wrote this blog, 25 women died in childbirth. What will you do to stop this tragedy? Take a minute to think about the women of Sierra Leone profiled in the Post series — Fatmata Jalloh, Jemelleh Saccoh, and Adama Sannoh — who died because they were poor.

Gloria L. Blackwell By:   |   October 15, 2008


  1. Sandy Kirkpatrick says:

    Another way to make a difference is to join a movement started by AAUW member Jane Roberts: 34 Million Friends. Small donations can go a very long way if we all contribute!

    Take a look:

  2. Flora Gray says:

    Thanks for the reminder Sandy about this amazing organization! My hope is that the next administration will begin to reverse the wrong-headed decisions of the Bush Administration to withhold funding to international NGOs that provide reproductive health services.

  3. Dana Grey says:

    Your travels in sub-Saharan Africa have obviously hightened your understanding of the issue at hand and being a mother yourself hightened the emotional impact. Thank you for this well written piece that brings attention to this particular side of this global issue.

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