The Huffington Post's Living section joins the Mothers Day Every Day, a joint campaign of the White Ribbon Alliance and CARE, in a daily countdown to Mothers Day with special voices working to help save the lives of mothers and newborns around the world. Mothers Day Every Day is advocating for more progress and investments toward safe pregnancy and healthy babies because when women survive childbirth, they give birth to healthier families, communities, and nations.
Shija Kangwe lives in Gabajiga village in Tanzania. Shija was pregnant with her eighth child when she started bleeding. She walked to the village health dispensary, about five minutes by foot, with her sister. The nurse told her she needed to go to Koromijie clinic for better care. Community transport took her to the main paved road, where her sister flagged down a car. The car took them past the clinic to the closest hospital, called Sumve, but by the time she arrived, it was too late and she miscarried.
Shija's story is unfortunately a familiar one. Delays in receiving proper medical attention result in tragic consequences for far too many women.
New data by the Lancet, a medical journal, show increases in the numbers of women surviving childbirth is cause for celebration. The good news is that even in the most challenging settings, women's lives are being saved. Yet with more than an estimated 340,000 women still dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, we cannot become complacent.
We know what to do to save women's lives. Countries with dramatic decreases in maternal deaths are those where more girls are educated and more women access high quality health care, including family planning, prenatal care and skilled care during and after birth. Yet, of the 181 countries surveyed, only 23 are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015.
Around the world, everyday heroes are taking action to prevent maternal and newborn deaths. Here are just two Stories of Mothers Saved from the hundreds gathered by the White Ribbon Alliance from its members in 30 countries.
•Chandrakali Kurmi, a community health volunteer in Nepal, prepared Najini and her husband for a home birth and if necessary, a trip to the hospital. After giving birth, Chandrakali gave Kurmi misoprostol medication to prevent bleeding. When the bleeding would not stop, Najini and her husband rushed to the hospital where doctors performed an operation that saved her life.
•Madjiguene Ciss, a community health worker in Senegal, was worried when Maimouna Faye, an older woman with a history of multiple pregnancies, experienced severe vomiting, weakness and dizziness early in her pregnancy. Madjiguene was there every step of the way, providing emotional and logistical support, as she referred Maimouna to the health center, hospital and a Pregnant Women's Solidarity Circle, all integral to Maimouna's healthy pregnancy and safe childbirth.
By working in partnership with others, organizations like CARE are transforming health systems to increase women's access to skilled care and life saving medicines. Here are just a few examples of how CARE is putting this into practice in the over 70 countries where they work.
•In India, CARE advanced a 10-year program in nine states - one of the largest NGO public health programs in the world. The goal was to strengthen the quality and coverage of maternal and child health services and to engage communities in improved maternal and child survival in more than 90,000 villages. Recent evaluations show newborn deaths decreased from 9 percent to 5 percent and deliveries with a skilled birth attendant rose from 37 percent to 84 percent in many communities. Use of family planning services also rose from 7 percent to 35 percent.
•After a CARE project reduced maternal deaths by 50 percent in a remote highland region of Peru, the Peruvian Ministry of Health used the project to establish new national guidelines and training for obstetric emergencies. Prior to the program, the region had had one of the worst maternal death rates in Peru. Afterwards, the number of women who sought treatment for obstetric complications jumped from 30 to 75 percent.
We know that skilled health care during pregnancy and at delivery reverse maternal death rates. We have the tools to keep these numbers going down. All we need are financial resources and the political will to be successful. This Mother's Day, join the bi-partisan coalition appealing to the Obama Administration and Congress to increase foreign assistance for maternal, newborn and child health programs. Together we can put an end to stories like Shija's. Do your part by visiting www.mothersdayeveryday.org and pledging your support. We must not stop because giving life should be a joyous - and safe - experience for all women.
Theresa Shaver and Helene Gayle are the Co-Founders of Mothers Day Every Day.
Check out the rest of our Countdown to Mothers Day series: