Mothers Have Delivered for Us -- Now Let's Deliver for Them

The interconnectedness of disease teaches us that without a healthy mother, a child is 10 times more likely to die in the first years of life, is less likely to be fed and is less likely to go to school.
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The Huffington Post's Living section joins 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.

On this Mother's Day, there is something very real to celebrate. A recent report claims that the number of women who die each year in or around the time of childbirth declined from about 550,000 to 340,000. There are always questions of methodology about any study, but that's real success. Buried in the gains is the disturbing finding that were it not for HIV, progress would have been even more impressive. That result is consistent with a recent report from the World Health Organization that HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in low and middle-income countries.

The relationship between maternal death and HIV reveals a fundamental truth: no health issue stands alone. In fact, if we have learned anything these past few years in global health, it is that nutrition, the health of mothers and children, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases and clean water (collectively, the health-related Millennium Development Goals - the MDGs -the United Nations is leading at the urging of its member states) are interconnected. Saving the life of a mother by treating her HIV, only to have her die in childbirth does not matter to her newborn. A malarial mosquito is not concerned by the HIV status of its next meal.

The interconnectedness of disease teaches us that without a healthy mother, a child is 10 times more likely to die in the first years of life, is less likely to be fed and so is more likely to suffer stunting and is less likely to go to school. And most often, it is worse for girls than boys perpetuating a cycle of injustice and poor health. We also know that healthy women will make healthy mothers and will contribute to society, so concern for the health of women begins before pregnancy occurs. Basically, the data tell us what we already know: women, and those who become mothers are often self-less and give of themselves for their children, family and community.

Women and mothers are the entry point for well-educated, productive, happy, healthy families, communities and nations. In other words -- they are the entry point to deliver on the MDGs. They are the key to our future. Seen through that lens, it does not matter if 550,000, 340,000 or 1,000 women die around the time of childbirth. We can celebrate the gains, but we cannot rest until those gains are assured and we have ensured the health of every woman, mother, child, family and person. That vision is not owned by a political party -- it is a fundamental expression of our humanity. We can disagree about methods to get there, but it is a moral imperative that we find common ground and make the vision a reality.

We don't need to start from scratch to create a development strategy that ensures women, mothers and children are the entry point for health and development. One possibility is to transform the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to a Global Fund - a unique global public/private financing partnership created by world leaders in 2002 -- for the health-related MDGs. While there are many issues to work out, several leaders in their field have promoted this solution including Ethiopian Health Minister Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus, global health advocate Ann Starrs, Global AIDS Alliance's Paul Zeitz and myself. More recently, Lancet Editor Richard Horton and Dr. Jeff Sachs have supported the concept.

Women and mothers have delivered for their children, families, communities and nations for millennia. It is now time for the community of nations to fully embrace them as the entry point for the Millennium Development Goals and it is high time that we deliver for them. Then we can fully celebrate Mothers Day Every Day.

Ambassador Mark Dybul is a member of the Mothers Day Every Day Advisory Committee

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