By Sarah Costa
“There were no means of transport, so they prepared a bicycle. She lost a lot of blood and when she arrived at the district hospital, she wasn’t paid much attention. Around 6 a.m., both the mother and baby died. I witnessed it. The woman was 38 years-old.” These are the words of a man from the Kisumu district in Kenya, describing a pregnant woman in his community who had died while giving birth during the post-election violence that rocked the country in early 2008.
This kind of scenario plays out every day, around the world; more than 350,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth every year. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, where the lack of access to quality health care and information results in high fertility rates and closely spaced births, increasing women’s and girls’ risk of death and disability. Indeed, pregnancy can be a matter of life or death for women and girls in these places; and, their infants’ lives are in jeopardy as well.