What does the health of moms and babies have to do with national security?

Mom Naomi with her newborn in Kenya

by Niaya Wade


My 5-year-old brother was born a healthy 7 lb., 5 oz. baby with the assistance of one of the many great doctors that Washington D.C. has to offer. My mother received quality care through her nine months of pregnancy with little worry about whether giving birth would kill her.

Niaya and her brother Andrew
Me and my 5-year-old brother, Andrew

Andrew is up-to-date on his shots, and a minor cough does not strike fear into my mother’s heart. He’s healthy and vibrant, and he probably will never go a day without food simply because of where he was born: the United States.

Unfortunately, for many children in developing countries, their parents can’t say the same.

Many mothers who do not have access to high-quality health care will face life-threatening conditions during their pregnancy.

They will fear for their children’s lives when their child has something as seemingly minor as diarrhea, which means a quick run to the nearest drug store in the United States.

I care about the survival of moms and kids around the world because I believe that where you live should not determine whether you live. It breaks my heart to know that, while there are children who go days without meals, my brother can say, “I’m not hungry,” when he is offered food. Save the Children’s health and nutrition programs for moms and kids save lives. I believe that Americans should care about the lives of moms and kids around the world because we have the tools to ensure that they can survive and thrive.

To provide some context, the World Health Organization estimates that more than twice the number of kids die in Kenya from preventable causes than in the United States.1 Not only are infants dying from preventable causes at an alarming rate, but mothers are losing their lives shortly after giving birth as well. The World Bank estimates that, for every 100,000 live births, 510 mothers die in Kenya, while only 14 maternal deaths occur in the United States.2

These enormous differences are due to many factors, starting with the country the child is born in. Many of these deaths in Kenya, and throughout the world, can be prevented with proper education, high-quality medical care, nutrition and sanitation. Often times, underdeveloped countries such as Kenya do not have the resources to provide these lifesaving interventions. This is where the United States and others can offer support.

But why should Americans, including our politicians, care about the health and well-being of mothers, newborns and young children in the developing world?

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, each country is depending more on each other than ever before.

When death, disease, hunger and war run rampant in other countries, America’s national security is at risk. There are strong correlations between poor health and instability, including distrust in local government and crime.

If just one mother dies, income is lost, which can then lead to the children dropping out of school to supplement the missing income. This lack of education means her children are more likely to grow up in desperate poverty creating an opportunity for exploitation.

We must realize this direct connection between poor health, poverty and security. Although we cannot prevent every mother from suffering birth complications or every infant from dying, working to decrease these occurrences will not only show other nations that we care about their well-being, thus building trust, but also will make the world a safer and healthier place.

Just like my brother, who wants to be a teacher when he grows up, children in every country should be able to grow up with dreams and goals to help change the world.


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As a graduate student studying International Affairs and Global Health at Northeastern University, Niaya Wade enjoys spending her time volunteering at homeless shelters. She aspires to work in disaster relief to help directly impact the world.