“This is the role of the mother. And in that visit I really saw clearly, for the first time, why a mother is really important. Not just because she feeds and also loves and also cuddles…but because in an interesting and maybe an eerie and other-worldly way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the unknown and the known.”
– Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom
In days of growing inconsistencies, a mother’s love remains universal.
Growing up with comfortable privileges and surroundings, my view of childbirth is limited to medical staff, a comfortable hospital room, and ever-present support and services. Working in the relief and development nonprofit sector, however, I have grown very aware that my reality is not the reality of many other women—particularly women living in vulnerable conditions.
I recently came across a statistic from the World Health Organization stating that 830 women die every day from preventable causes relating to childbirth. 99% of these maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
What is especially heartbreaking about this statistic is not only that these deaths occur, but that they can be prevented.
That centers us back to the premise of a mother’s love. If an estimated 830 women die every day, the children they give birth to are going into the world without mothers.
Islamic Relief staff met Mary several years ago, while she was living in a displacement camp in South Sudan. Her husband was not with her, and she had two young children. She gave birth to her third child in the middle of the night on the ground outside of a medical waiting tent.
Mary’s camp was staffed with only three doctors and five other health workers. To understand the scope, the camp was occupied with 12,000-14,000 displaced individuals. That’s one doctor for every 4,000 people, at least.
When our staff met Mary, she was exhausted and in a great amount of pain following her childbirth. Thanks to IRUSA donors, Mary received antibiotics, vitamins, pain relief, and anti-parasitic medication, and the medical staff was able to help her and her baby recover.
As evidenced with Mary, women living in poor and vulnerable conditions are far less likely to get proper health care, if any. According to the WHO, factors like poverty, distance, lack of information, and inadequate services prevent women from receiving the maternal care they should be entitled to. Globally, millions of births remain unassisted without a doctor, trained nurse, or midwife—a huge component in fighting preventable maternal deaths.
World Health Day
This World Health Day, I believe it’s especially essential to recognize the privilege that many of us have with regard to healthcare—especially when many others, both domestically and internationally—do not have said privileges. I also have to wonder why lifesaving care is dependent on a country or income bracket. I am especially grateful to organizations, like Islamic Relief USA, who prioritize maternal healthcare on the forefront.
On days like World Health Day, it is imperative that we pause and reflect on our own privileges, whilst also educating ourselves on how we can leverage that privilege to advocate for others. Today, I choose to shed light on the mothers of the world—the mothers who give life in the most dire circumstances, and the mothers taken too soon.