This piece originally appeared in The Hill.
Asegedech is a 59-year-old grandmother of three from Ethiopia.
Her daughter, Hirut, recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy in a public hospital in Addis Ababa. But when Asegedech gave birth in the same hospital 30 years ago, her experience was much less positive.
“There were a lot of challenges,” she said. “We did not know about prenatal care during my time. It was very difficult to see a doctor. You might not get medical attention, even if you were a bleeding mother. You would receive abusive words from the nurses when you were in labor. They would rebuke us when we asked for help.”
Today, Hirut is happy with the care she received when she was pregnant. The medical team gave her support and advice and regularly assessed her condition. She was worried about giving birth, but they made her feel comfortable.
Unfortunately, Hirut’s maternal care experience is not common in developing nations around the world. Every day, 16,000 children under the age of 5 die from preventable diseases. In addition, 800 women die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. These numbers are startling, but there is good news. Since 1990, the mortality rates for children under 5 have been reduced by more than half.
This is one of the great success stories in international development. U.S. leadership has helped build the capacity of communities and countries to care for their children. This progress has been achieved with simple and proven solutions to address leading causes of death, including malnutrition, dehydration, and premature births.
But there is much more that can and must be done. That’s why we’ve joined together in a bipartisan manner to introduce the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (Reach Act). This bipartisan legislation would help save the lives of millions of children and some hundreds of thousands of women, with the goal of ending preventable maternal and child deaths within a generation.
The Reach Act would accomplish this goal by helping the U.S. government coordinate with other countries to reach the most moms and babies in need of assistance, focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable populations, ensuring more moms and babies have access to vital health care services and empowering individual families and communities with education and resources. Not only does this bill have the potential to give children a chance at a future, but it would help foster stability and security around the world. Together, we can end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths around the world within a generation.
Reichert has represented Washington’s 8th Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Ways and means Committee. McCollum has represented Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District since 2001. She sits on the Appropriations Committee. Lee represents California’s 13th Congressional District and has served in the House since 1998. She sits on the Appropriations and the Budget committees. McCaul has represented Texas’ 10th Congressional District since 2005. He is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee and also sits on the Foreign Affairs and the Science, Space and Technology committees.