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t’s a big month for women’s health and rights as advocates and world leaders gathered earlier in March at the UN in New York City to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women; and the Beijing Platform for Action which gave rise to actions to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. The platform highlighted 12 key areas to address.

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Image courtey of UN Women (

Why are these issues important to Jacaranda Health?

One of those areas is “Women and Health” because, as UN Women notes, “Women need to be healthy in order to realize their full potential.” It’s been repeated many times but 289,000 women die every year from complications related to pregnacy and childbirth; most of those complications (including postpartum hemorrhage, and high-blood pressure during pregnancy) are preventable with access to skilled health providers and an improvement in the quality of care currently accessible to most women in developing countries.  Jacaranda Health builds maternity hospitals for these women and newborns and offers patient-centered, respectful, high quality health care from pregnancy through to postpartum (including family planning); we work to influence the maternal health landscape in order to improve the quality of maternal and newborn health care; and develop the next generation of nurse midwives.

The good news, cited often during this week’s high-level meetings: since 1995 the rate of women worldwide who die in childbirth has decreased by more than 40%. That’s great news, actually. And that’s not just in wealthier nations. Over 76 countries, according to NPR, have seen a massive decrease in the number of women dying and,

“…a few of the countries where pregnant women faced the greatest risk back in 1995 have seen the greatest improvement. In Afghanistan, the number of women dying in childbirth per 100,000 live births plunged from 1,200 in 1995 to 400 by 2013 — that’s about a 66 percent drop. The maternal death rate also declined spectacularly in Angola, Laos and Rwanda.”

What’s working? Not only are we investing in health systems and improving the quality of health care in some of the lowest-resource countries in the world, as well as increasing the skilled health workforce, but we are also working to increase the number of women who access antenatal care. It’s important to note that family planning use has increased, helping women to space their pregnancies and plan for their families. In fact, in sub-Saharan Africa overall, the percentage of women using modern contraception has doubled.

It’s not all good news, though, especially in sub-Saharan Africa where Jacaranda Health focuses our work. Eight hundred women die every day from mostly preventable complications during pregnancy or childbirth and almost all of them live in this part of the world.

At Jacaranda Health, our goal is to contribute significantly to reducing this number. How? We continuously build on the exciting, evidence-based model for high-quality, patient-centered, respectful maternal health care that we’ve developed within our current two maternity hospitals (with more to come!), on the outskirts of Nairobi. Since 2012, we have had zero maternal deaths. It’s why we’re bringing this model to public and private hospitals throughout Kenya and plan to expand to East Africa more broadly. As we expand, our priority remains ensuring the health and survival of the women and newborns we serve.  We know what works to save women’s health and lives and we hope you’ll join us in making a difference.

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