This World Health Day, Shine a Light on Maternal Health

April 7, 2011

Pregnant women at a maternity waiting house in northern Sierra Leone, where they can stay fom the ninth month of pregnancy until their babies are delivered.

Today is World Health Day – and you can celebrate by shining a light on maternal health!

World Health Day marks the anniversary of the founding, in 1948, of the World Health Organization, whose constitution — signed by all 193 Members of the United Nations — states that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

Preventable deaths in pregnancy and childbirth are violations of the right to health, and the right to freedom from discrimination due to gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, or income level. Maternal mortality is not just a public health emergency – it is a human rights crisis.

Every 90 seconds, another woman dies from complications of pregnancy and childbirth – that’s 1,000 women every day, more than 350,000 each year. The vast majority of these deaths could be prevented, and ninety-nine percent happen in the developing world — the greatest disparity between developed and developing countries of any global health issue.

Though the world has made progress in reducing maternal mortality rates over the last decade, this progress has much slower than necessary to meet the target set by Millennium Development Goal 5 — reducing maternal mortality ratios by 75% by 2015. Further, the progress has often been uneven. For example, though Peru saw a 61% drop in rates of maternal deaths between 1990 and 2008, poor and Indigenous women remain much more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications. In the United States, the risk of dying from complications of pregnancy and childbirth is greater than in 49 other countries, and African-American women remain at four times higher risk of death than white women – rates than have not improved in more than six decades.

In the weeks around Mother’s Day (May 8th) this year, Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity Campaign will be fighting for every woman’s right to a safe pregnancy and childbirth. From April 23 to May 22, activists across the country will:

  • Write Mother’s Day cards to U.S. and international leaders
  • Lobby their congresspeople to support the Maternal Health Accountability Act
  • Hold film screenings to raise awareness about maternal mortality in their communities

And more.

Join us! This World Health Day, commit to shine a light on maternal health by registering to host or join an event.