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Improve maternal health

Today we look at the fifth goal in our series on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Goal five is improving maternal health.

Two targets

In achieving goal 5, the UN has two metrics they use for measuring success.

  1. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
  2. Achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare

Maternal mortality

Childbirth is one of the most dangerous activities for women in the developing world. Any number of things can go wrong in the birthing process that endanger not just the health and life of the child, but the mother as well. From hemorrhaging to breech births to infection, thousands of women die every year giving birth.

Just a quick glance at the statistics reveals how much a concern this is in development work. Compare countries like Chad, Somalia and Afghanistan—where over 1000 women die per 100,000 births—with a country like Germany—where just 7 women die per 100,000 births. (Statistics via the World Health Statistics 2011 report.)

Reproductive health

An important part of reducing the maternal mortality rate is making sure all women have access to reproductive healthcare. This ranges from family planning to skilled birthing assistants to clean, sterile birthing environments.

Family planning is one of the best and most certain ways of reducing maternal mortality–fewer births equal less risk for the mother. However, family planning is also a highly controversial topic in many countries where religious or cultural concerns over contraception and discussion of reproductive issues outside of the family is considered taboo.

Far less controversial is access to skilled birthing assistants, especially midwives and medical professionals. Having a trained birthing assistant with sterile medical equipment and a clean environment goes a long way toward eliminating the risk of infection for both the mother and child.

Take a look at this slideshow from the Gates Foundation for the story of a woman in Nepal and the difference access to a birthing assistant made for her.

How you can help

Here is a list of Jolkona projects that work to support the goal of improving maternal health.

  1. Provide medical supplies in Bangladesh
  2. Support safe births in Palestine
  3. Provide healthcare to Nepalese women
  4. Adopt a mother in India

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