Thursday, March 8, 2012

Salute Women by Improving Maternal Health

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By: Samuel M. Gebru (@SMGebru) and Zewdy Awalom (@Zewdy)
March 8, 2012

Today is International Women’s Day, an opportunity for us to celebrate the women worldwide making a positive impact to our families and communities. A United Nations-recognized political awareness holiday, International Women’s Day is aimed at giving attention to the political, economic and social struggles women in our world still face while also celebrating their vast achievements.

Dedicating a day for women reminds us of the challenges women endure and the strength they have. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2012, we would like to focus on the urgent necessity of our world to focus on improving maternal health.

One third of all births take place at home without the assistance of skilled birth attendants. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 536,000 women die annually due to the lack of proper maternal healthcare. Over 3 million stillbirths and 3.7 million newborn deaths occur each year. Tragically, 99% of these maternal and child deaths occur in developing countries like Ethiopia and the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.

At the Millennium Summit in 2000, 192 United Nations member states, including Ethiopia, adopted the United Nations Millennium Declaration, pledging to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject poverty and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.” Improving maternal heath, the fifth goal of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), includes achieving universal access to reproductive health.

Quality maternal health services are fundamental to achieving successful births. In developing countries, where the urban-rural divide is greater, rural women have even less access to proper maternal health resulting in even more deaths.

These largely preventable tragedies must be addressed through improving the quality of and expanding the access to healthcare and education. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), over 25,000 women die annually due to pregnancy-related complications in Ethiopia. More than 500,000 women suffer annually due to complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth.

The Ethiopian Global Initiative (EGI) is committed to improving maternal healthcare. EGI’s Midwives Scholarship Fund aims to fully fund the education of eight students at the Hamlin College of Midwives (HCM) in Ethiopia, a local private college accredited with the Ministries of Education and Health. HCM’s four-year programs grant students a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery. At the core of HCM’s work is the prevention of childbirth complications and deaths through education.

63% of illiterate young people globally, about 86,310,000 people, are women. Because many women are uninformed about their maternal health and legal rights these issues go unnoticed. By educating a new class of midwives in Ethiopia, HCM aims to improve the local healthcare workforce and keep Ethiopia’s human capital in country.

EGI aims to help women empower themselves. Educating women to become skilled midwives and deploying them to rural Ethiopia preventing childbirth complications and deaths is an enormous task that requires your generosity and support.

Join us and celebrate women daily. No woman should suffer during childbirth. Donate today and share our message with your friends.

Samuel M. Gebru is the Chairman and President of the Ethiopian Global Initiative. Zewdy Awalom is an up-and-coming R&B singer whose voice has been compared to that of Beyonce Knowles.

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