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Every baby is headline news

Posted by Gez Russell Website Editor

22nd Jul 2013

Congratulations Kate! The royal baby's a cause for celebration - just like the hundreds of thousands of children born worldwide every day. Future queen or not, mums in the UK have access to some of the best maternal health care in the world, and that in itself should be another source of great national pride. 

And who wouldn't want all mothers to enjoy the same benefits? Unfortunately, that's not the case everywhere. Every day, 1,400 women still die needlessly in childbirth. Mums-to-be in Afghanistan face terrifying odds: 1,575 women per 100,000 die in childbirth (compared to just 8 in the UK)*.

Real cause for optimism

But here's a happier story for this happy day. Oxfam has campaigned for decades to raise global standards of healthcare. We've lobbied successive governments tirelessly to make good on the Millennium Development Goals (a series of commitments made in 2000 aimed at lifting around 500 million people out of poverty) and longstanding promises on aid.

 In March, after years of unrelenting pressure from charities including Oxfam, the UK Government announced it would finally make good on its (43-year!) promise to spend 0.7% of national income on aid. We've already seen the difference aid can make to the prospects of pregnant mothers and this victory for campaigning is real cause for optimism:

(More) happy days for Ghana

Take Ghana. In 2008, its government made health care free for all pregnant women. And it was able to do this partly thanks to foreign aid money. Since fees were abolished, close to half a million more women have received professional care during pregnancy - women who would otherwise have struggled to pay, or would have missed out on expert care completely - things we take for granted, such as a midwife, or medicine.

Comfort (pictured with baby Wednesday in Achimota Hospital in Accra) got the healthcare she needed for a safe and healthy pregnancy, and like more and more women was able to have her baby delivered in hospital.

The result:  the maternal mortality rate has tumbled from 560 to 451. There's still a long way to go - in cities, healthworkers and hospital facilities are still seriously overstretched, and in rural areas, services are often too far away. And that number needs to fall a lot further. But it's brilliant progress nevertheless.  There are now thousands more safe births in Ghana every year than anyone would have dared dream before free health care. Happy days indeed.


Related links

Get involved: Oxfam's Health and Education campaign

Video: Cecilia - a day in the life of a Ghanaian midwife 

*Source: Lancet


Blog post written by Gez Russell

Website Editor

More by Gez Russell