Give yourself a minute to imagine living in a world where giving birth means certain death for someone you love. Now realize we live in a world where this is a stark reality for hundreds of millions of people. According to Save the Children’s twelfth annual Mothers’ Index, families in Afghanistan, Niger, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen and dozens of other countries face this possibility with the birth of each child. Meanwhile, families in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe would be shocked to hear of a single mother or infant mortality. The reprehensible statistics for Afghanistan shame every human. Lifetime risk of maternal death is one in eleven, compared to Greece’s one in 38,100 or Sweden’s one in 11,000. In Afghanistan, for every 1,000 live births, 199 children die before the age of five. In Norway the number is only 3. At birth, a woman in Switzerland can expect to live to 84 years old, while in Afghanistan she can expect to only see her 45th birthday.
These statistics are not an anomaly of Afghanistan; Chad, Somalia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo all have over 190 children per one thousand die before the age of five. To give perspective to the index, each country is assigned a Tier based on economic development. Tier I being the most economically developed, while Tier III is the least. It is true that economics play a crucial role in the overall well being of mothers, but not all Tier III countries are equal. For instance, Maldives lifetime risk of maternal death is one in 1,200 while Somalia’s is one in 14.
Many cultural differences can account for these major discrepancies: political stability, location, dominant religions, and population to name a few. But, in reality, the health of women and children is seen as a private issue not a public one. These are private tragedies that affect each countries’ most vulnerable individuals, not international scandals. Humanity cares more about royal weddings and movie star ramblings than dying mothers and infants. Humanity pay billions to build weapons that increase suffering and only a fraction of that money goes to basic humanitarian aid. Humanity fails women and children.