By: Joanna Hoffman, Program Associate for Women Deliver
As delegates to the UN summit rush between meetings and announce their country’s commitments towards reaching the MDGs, they are coming face to face with the stark reminder of maternal mortality in the form of a “maternal death clock” in Times Square. Amnesty International activated the clock yesterday morning to highlight the staggering consequences of MDG 5’s lack of sufficient progress to date- every 90 seconds, a woman dies in childbirth. In a year, 358,000 mothers die throughout the world. 99% of deaths occur in developing countries, and the majority of these deaths are preventable.
Several avenues to the east of Times Square, those meeting at the UN have the power to turn these numbers around. As they converge to discuss progress made on the MDGs thus far, there is a question on many of our minds: Why is MDG 5, the heart of the MDGs, lagging so far behind? The second annual Women Deliver conference showed that we know what the solutions are to save the lives of girls and women. What we are often missing is political will from those in power. As the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty has noted, “The cost is being paid by these women who are dying every 90 seconds.”
The clock is counting down for women in the U.S., as well. A recent UN study on maternal deaths per 100,000 live births ranked the U.S. 50th in the world. In New York in particular, the maternal death rate is twice that of the national average, as shown in a recent report by the New York Academy of Medicine.
Undoubtedly, progress has been made on MDG 5. However, if we wish to reach the goal of reducing maternal deaths by 75% by 2015, forward action must be accelerated. Success cannot be celebrated as long as women continue to die. The clock is still ticking.