About maternal health
"Be at your mother’s feet and there is Paradise” (Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)
Women are central to the life and development of societies around the world. They are the heart of our global ummah. Women do 66% of the world’s work and produce 50% of the food. Without them, society would be unable to sustain itself yet:
- every day 800 mothers die unnecessarily during pregnancy or childbirth (2010 estimates)
- nearly 5 1/2 women are left with disabilities and injuries from complications relating to pregnancy and childbirth every year
- 99% of these deaths occur in the developing world. To put this into perspective the lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is 1 in 16 in Somalia compared to 1 in 4600 in the UK
But the fact is that 8 out of 10 maternal deaths could be prevented if women had better access to quality healthcare facilities and trained health workers. Right now, thousands of women in the developing world are unable to access hospitals or clinics, vital medication or birth support because these facilities are too few and far between or because they are simply too expensive.
Other factors also impact on maternal health. Studies have shown that girls who get married and have children in their teens are far more at risk of dying in childbirth than those who marry later and have children later, and that birth spacing and access to family planning increase a mother’s chance of survival. Research also shows that girls who stay in education longer are less likely to die during pregnancy because they tend to marry and have children at a later age, and they are more able to articulate their needs.
How can we prevent maternal deaths?
We believe that in order to improve maternal health and prevent needless deaths, we not only need to provide women with free access to healthcare, but also empower them to access their rights and participate in making the decisions that affect their bodies, their health and their lives. Community leaders and men have an important role to play in supporting the rights of women and promoting better access to healthcare.
Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) highlighted the importance of safeguarding the rights of women and the reward associated with it, saying that:
“Anyone who looks after and brings up three daughters or sisters, educates them well, treats them with compassion until God makes them self-sufficient, God guarantees him paradise” (Ibn Abbas).
It’s not difficult or expensive to save lives – the majority of deaths can be prevented through access to basic medicine, family planning methods and the presence of a trained health worker such as a midwife during childbirth. What we need is the will to make the change.
Dr Mahmoud Fathalla, a medical professor in Cairo, said: “Women are not dying because of diseases we cannot treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving.”
The Millennium Development Goals
The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals agreed on in 2000 by world leaders to tackle global poverty in the world’s poorest countries by 2015.
Reducing maternal mortality is the 5th Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5). MDG 5 aims to reduce the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by 75% from 1990 levels by 2015 (Target 5a) and to achieve universal access to reproductive health (Target 5b). In order to achieve MDG 5, the global maternal mortality ratio should be being reduced by 5.5% annually – so far progress has fallen far short of this goal. In 2008, an estimated 358,000 women died from maternal causes.
What’s being done now?
In September 2010, nearly 65,000 people in the UK asked Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to take the lead in championing the fight against global poverty. At the UN MDG Summit in September 2010, the UK government went on to press for more resources to be put into tackling maternal mortality (MDG 5) and infant mortality (MDG 4). Delegates at the summit pledged more than $40 billion over the next five years for maternal and child health. This has the potential to save the lives of more than 16 million women and children.
In December 2010, the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DfID) published the Framework for Results for improving reproductive, maternal and newborn health in the developing world. With this framework, the UK pledged to continue to empower women and girls to make healthy choices, increase healthcare provision and remove the barriers that prevent access to quality healthcare. The government has made concrete pledges to:
- Save the lives of at least 50,000 women and 250,000 babies by 2015
- Enable at least 10 million more women to use modern methods of family planning by 2015
- Prevent more than 5 million unintended pregnancies and
- Support at least 2 million safe births
In July 2012, DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a Family Planning Summit in London. Donor governments at the Summit pledged $2.6 million to ensure that voluntary family planning services can reach 120 more women and girls by 2020. More than 20 developing countries also pledged to tackle financial, policy and delivery barriers preventing women from accessing contraceptive information and services. Find out more at www.dfid.gov.uk.
What can you do?
We believe that Muslim communities have the power to make a difference. Sign up to join the campaign and take one of our actions to show your support for mothers around the world.