Without the luxury of access to quality medical care, planning ahead is critical for the survival of mothers and children across the world.
During my recent visit to Nicaragua, I spoke with one young woman who lives in a rural village and had to walk across a river in order to access the nearest medical facility. In the rainy season, it is nearly impossible to cross the river by foot. Since her baby was scheduled to be born during this time, she had to come into town to live for several months in a casa materna, a maternity house where pregnant women live prior to giving birth. For women like her, having a maternity house available can be the difference between life and death for both her and her baby.
Unfortunately, not all women around the world have this option. Although maternal and infant mortality has been cut in half worldwide over the last 25 years, there are still approximately 1 million newborns who die in the first day of life each year, and 300,000 mothers who die annually from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The lack of access to medical care during this fragile time costs the lives of many babies who have barely started living. This is a problem we know how to fix.
During the Save the Children Action Network Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C., this spring, I learned the importance of stressing these critical issues to members of Congress. I had the opportunity to be an advocate for babies and mothers across the world through visits with South Carolina’s senators and representatives. It’s important that lawmakers understand that we are capable of saving moms and kids, and the momentum can’t stop now.
South Carolina has recognized the importance of maternal and infant health. Last year, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced The Accelerating Action in Maternal and Child Health Act with the goal of saving the lives of millions of babies and mothers around the world.
After traveling to a developing country and interacting with several types of healthcare providers, I have seen firsthand the impact of the tremendous improvements in strategies to save mothers and babies, but there is still more work to be done. The reintroduction of this bill would save more mothers and give more babies a chance at life.
Every newborn baby deserves a chance to live. Let’s continue this momentum so mothers and babies across the world don’t have to die from preventable causes.
Kjersti Kleine of Cary, N.C., is a junior at Furman University where she is studying Health Sciences and Poverty Studies.