Image: Save the Children

The 15th annual Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report (#SOWM) was launched yesterday. As a first-time mother-to-be myself, I am now reading this report with a new perspective – and while my firstborn child is not due to arrive until October, I am already beginning to understand the challenges, difficulties and struggles faced by millions of mothers around the world every day in a whole new way.

SOWM 2014

This year, SOWM focuses on Saving Mothers and Children in Humanitarian Crises. Motherhood is challenging for all women – but for millions of women living under emergency and conflict situations, being a mother and caring for your own health and the health and well-being of your children, is challenging in ways most of us cannot even begin to comprehend. Over half of preventable maternal and child deaths take place in fragile settings, and since the launch of the Mother’s Index in 2000, most of the countries that have ranked in the bottom 10 are countries that currently are, or have recently emerged, from fragile and conflict situations.

Conflict and disaster, whether natural or man-made, rip families from their roots and force them apart. Often incurring in countries with already limited or uneven access to basic services like health care or water and sanitation, conflict situations prevent women from obtaining basic services and support for themselves and their families – placing both mothers and children under constant risk and danger. As outlined in the Report, mothers and children in conflict and emergency situations live under the threat of violence, illness, malnutrition, lack of life-saving medication and healthcare services, hunger, and young women and girls often face a high risk of becoming child brides. Girls who become pregnant before age 15 have an increased risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and children born to teenage mothers have a higher risk of being premature and having low birth weight, among other complications. In developing countries, millions of women and girls lack access to family planning services and contraceptives – and in emergency and conflict situations, such services are almost never available or accessible.

SHARE_CARDThe State of the World’s Mothers report illustrates the struggles and dangers faced by mothers around the world through four case studies, highlighting situations in The Philippines, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and the United States.The last part of the report, “Take Action for Mothers and Children”, outlines concrete suggestions and recommendations on what needs to be done globally for mothers and children in conflict to ensure that their lives and wellbeing are protected. While many of these actions need to take place at the level of policy making, legislation, infrastructure improvements and financial commitment from governments and other stakeholders, everyone can do their part to advocate for women’s and children’s right to a safe, conflict-free and healthy life.

  • You can join the conversation online to inform others about the challenges faced by millions of women and girls;
  • you can reach out to your local politicians and decision makers to demand that adequate investments are made in your community for protecting women’s and children’s right to a safe and healthy life;
  • you can raise awareness about these issues in your own community, volunteer in a shelter, donate your time, money or other resources you may have available.
  • You can take the pledge to support efforts to ensure every mother and child living in crisis has access to high quality health care, nutritious food, safe shelter and protection from harm.

And – if you are a parent, whether a mother or a father, you can pick up your children and hold them very tight and close, and be thankful for being able to do so. You can raise your children to value the life they have, and the opportunities they have been given. I know I am one of the lucky ones – having the chance to experience a happy and healthy pregnancy, and getting to bring my child into this world in a safe place. Every single mother deserves that chance too – and we can all pitch in to turn that into a reality.

Featured image courtesy of Save the Children USA.

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