Too often, a woman’s health and well-being is considered unimportant, and nowhere is this more damaging than in infant and maternal mortality.
We began our work in the Central African Republic (CAR) in May 2007. The next year the maternal mortality rates around the world were released. In CAR, the rate was 1,570 deaths per 100,000 live births - a staggeringly high number that masks far too much horror and sorrow behind a cold statistic.
But we’d already begun our midwife training program for local health care workers. We were exploring cultural opportunities to ensure mothers could - and would - get the care they needed, before, during, and after the birth.
The result? With our help, within three years, the maternal mortality rate had fallen from 1,570 deaths per 100,000 to 890.
Yes, that’s a significant improvement - and yet the number is still far too high. Today a woman’s lifetime risk of maternal mortality is still 1 in 27 in CAR - enough so that most women know of at least one woman, and maybe more, from their village who has died in childbirth. Compare that to the risk in the developed world, which is 1 in 3,800.
The loss of a mother is no less devastating to a family in the Central African Republic than it is in the developed world; it just happens far, far more often in CAR, and in other developing nations. And when a mother dies, her child is ten times more likely to die within two years, too.