When Zero is the Magic Number: Saving Lives During Childbirth

By Kelsey Carroll

September 28, 2017

When emergencies hit, women do not stop having babies and needing access to family planning. And UNFPA does not stop saving lives.

“Every mother deserves safety, hygiene, and kindness when she delivers her child.” This was actress Ashley Judd’s wish for moms around the globe during the 2017 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last week. Ashley also serves as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund – or UNFPA – the leading UN agency working to ensure that every mom gives birth safely, especially in places that are plagued by conflict.

Too often, when crises strike, women’s health and rights are put on the back burner – even though these times are often when women need access to contraceptives and health care most. Women must sometimes travel great distances to access a clinic or hospital to give birth. But during emergencies, this is simply not possible for many, leaving women’s health and wellbeing – as well as that of their children – in the balance.

Enter: UNFPA. Dan Baker, serves as Syrian regional humanitarian coordinator for UNFPA, spoke at an event during UNGA, co-hosted by UNFPA and Johnson & Johnson, about the difference that access to reproductive healthcare can mean in the lives of refugees. “Family planning is so often forgotten in emergency settings,“ he said, “[but] if services are there, women live.” He also said that the only acceptable number of moms dying in childbirth is zero – and it’s possible to get there.

More than 75 percent of those affected by humanitarian crises are women and children.

In the Zaatari refugee camp, UNFPA’s lifesaving work has led to over 7,500 women giving birth safely without a single mom dying in childbirth. Thanks to the incredible health workers and staff working in the UNFPA clinic, women who had to flee their homes and deal with challenges that seem insurmountable are able to make sure their childbirths are safe and comfortable.

More than 75 percent of those affected by humanitarian crises are women and children. UNFPA is often the sole provider of health care for moms and families, as well as safe spaces for teens. Even now, as Rohingya refugees flee from Myanmar into Bangladesh, UNFPA is there with trained midwives and dignity kits, ready to serve women and families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

The world is facing its greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Now more than ever women need access to critical health services like those that UNFPA provides to enable them and their children to stay safe and healthy.

Take Action Challenge

  • Support UNFPA: women’s lives are in jeopardy while funding from the U.S. government is being withheld from UNFPA.
  • Become a spokesperson: Get to know the issue and engage in your local community.

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