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Women’s Lives Matter: The impact of a maternal death on families and communities

2014 October 1

The sudden death of a woman from largely preventable causes during pregnancy or childbirth is a terrible injustice that comes at a very high cost. Her death is not an isolated event, but one that has devastating repercussions on her newborn baby (if it survives), her children, husband, parents, other relatives, and community members.

On October 7th, 2014, FCI will join with the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to host a live webcast to explore new research documenting the dramatic economic and social impacts of a woman’s death during pregnancy or childbirth. We will feature new findings from Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa, which advocates can use to argue for efforts to save the lives of nearly 300,000 women who die each year from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes, almost all of which are preventable.Women's Lives Matter_7Oct2014 promo graphic

A mother’s death, tragic in its own right, impacts her family’s financial stability and her children’s health, education, and future opportunities. According to the Kenya study we conducted with ICRW and the KEMRI-CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration, when a mother dies in or around childbirth, her newborn baby is unlikely to survive. Surviving children are often forced to quit school or if they continue their studies, they become distracted from grief or new household responsibilities. Also, when a woman dies, funeral costs present a crippling hardship to her family, while the loss of a productive member disrupts the family’s livelihood.

The studies conducted by the FXB Center also revealed increased child mortality. Qualitative research illustrated a link between maternal mortality and the survival, health, and well-being of children. In Tanzania, for example, the FXB Center’s researchers found that children whose mothers had died during pregnancy or childbirth have a higher risk of being undernourished.  The loss of a mother, the central figure responsible for the care and education of her children, often results in the dissolution of her family.

Although countries have made great strides to improve maternal health, too many countries still have a high burden of maternal death. The most recent Countdown to 2015 report noted that of the 75 Countdown countries, which together account for more than 95% of all maternal, newborn, and child deaths, half still have high maternal mortality ratios (300–499 deaths per 100,000 live births), and 16 countries—all of them in Africa—have a very high maternal mortality ratio (500 or more deaths per 100,000 live births). The studies that will be presented in this webinar provide urgently-needed evidence that advocates can use to persuade governments, donors, and policy makers that investments in women’s health and maternal health are also investments in newborns and children, in stable families, in education and community development, in stronger national economies and, ultimately, in sustainable development. As the report, Investing in Women’s Reproductive Health, notes:

[I]nvestments in reproductive health are a major missed opportunity for development. Effective and affordable interventions are available to improve reproductive health outcomes in developing countries, and the challenge is less about identifying these interventions but rather in implementing and sustaining policies to put proven packages of interventions and reforms into practice.

Pregnancy and childbirth should never cost a woman her life. But this research shows that the true price of a maternal death is even higher than that. It is a premium her family will continue to pay long after she’s gone.

The live webcast will include the following panelists:

  • Dr. Ana Langer (moderator), Director of the Women and Health Initiative
  • Alicia ElyYamin, Lecturer on Global Health, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health; and Policy Director, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
  • Rohini Prabha Pande, Lead Researcher on A Price Too High to Bear, Independent Consultant on Gender and Health
  • Jeni Klugman, Author of Investing in Women’s Reproductive Health (2013) and lead author, Voice and Agency (2014)
  • Amy Boldosser-Boesch, Interim President and CEO, Family Care International

Please join us on October 7, 2:30 – 3:30 PM! View the webcast live and submit your questions to the panel in real time: bit.ly/WomensLivesMatter

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