healthcare in peruPeru carries a heavy history of periodic instability that has made the establishment of an accessible healthcare system perilous. The country suffers from an inequitable distribution of healthcare workers. It also struggles with the partition between private and governmentally-sponsored healthcare, the provisions of which skew inequitably toward the wealthy. Peru’s wealth gap shows the richest 20% in the nation controlling nearly half of its income and the poorest 20% earning less than 5%. This inequality is quite literally killing Peruvians. According to the 2007 National Census of Indigenous Peoples conducted by the Peruvian government, over 50% of census-interviewed communities did not have access to any form of health care facility.

Healthcare in Peru by the Numbers

  • The life expectancy in Peru is 74 years, landing the country at 126 out of 224 countries.
  • The probability of a child in Peru dying before the age of five is 1.4%, compared to 0.1% in the United States.
  • Peru spends 5.5% of its GDP on healthcare, compared to the U.S.’s 17.1%, ranking the country at 128 out of 224 countries.
  • In Peru, there are one and a half hospital beds available per 1,000 individuals. This is a number that is especially dire during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Peru clocks in at just under one and one-quarter of a physician per every 1,000 Peruvians in need of medical care.

Structure of Healthcare in Peru

Due in part to fluctuating governmental structures and rulers, Peru currently operates with a decentralized health care system administered by five entities. Two of these entities provide 90% of the nation’s healthcare services publicly, while three provide 10% of the nation’s healthcare in the private sector. This distribution results in considerable overlap and little coordination, depleting the healthcare system of resources and providers. In fact, many healthcare providers in Peru work an assortment of jobs across different subsectors.

As healthcare is a necessary sector of the economy, Peru’s healthcare worker density is increasing, even as health worker outmigration also increases. But since these workers are not equitably distributed, coastal and urban areas monopolize the majority of these providers. Lima and tourist coasts boast the highest distribution of healthcare workers, while rural and remote areas such as Piura and Loreto are home to few health providers.

Impact of the Healthcare Structure on Women

The detrimental effects of inequitable healthcare distribution are most visible in the country’s astonishing maternal mortality rate. In Peru, 185 out of 100,000 mothers dying from pregnancy-related causes, one of the highest in the Americas. The burden of maternal mortality rests squarely upon the shoulders of poor, rural, and Indigenous women. They are dying from largely preventable causes in a massive breach of human rights. These women disproportionately face countless barriers to pregnancy wellness and birth healthcare, including a dearth of emergency obstetric and neonatal services, language barriers and a lack of information regarding maternal health. Peru has implemented policies in recent years to reduce the rate of maternal mortality, such as the increase of maternal waiting houses for rural pregnant women to reside in as they approach birth. Unfortunately, women and health professionals attest that these measures are inadequate and improperly implemented.

The only cause of premature death that precedes neonatal disorders as a result of inadequate neonatal obstetrics is lower respiratory infections. This type of infection is the most likely cause of premature death, and it has remained so since 2007. This illness, too, disproportionately impacts women and children. They are the most likely groups to die from household air pollution, a type of pollution caused by the burning of solid fuels for cooking and heating purposes. In Peru, 429 out of an estimated 1,110 yearly childhood deaths are caused by acute lower respiratory infections resulting from household air pollution. Combined, neonatal disorders and lower respiratory infections cause more death and disability than any other factor in Peru. These are shortening the lives of Peruvian women and children by almost 20%.

Moving Forward with Healthcare in Peru

The healthcare system in Peru is one that suffers many flaws. It is straining to support its people, especially in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. While the going is slow, the country is striving to reform its healthcare system. Peru is doing this by reforming its healthcare system in the direction of universal coverage – an achievable but certainly strenuous goal. Since vigorously implementing healthcare reform in the late 90s, Peru reports coverage of 80% of its population with some form of health services. While this number is far from ideal, it is evidence that the Peruvian government is not only cognizant of but concerned about its healthcare failures, and it is striving for a fuller coverage future.


– Annie Iezzi
Photo: NeedPix

Maternal health in Nepal Nepal, a landlocked country bordering India and China, has a population of approximately 30 million. In 2015, close to 41 percent of births occurred at home in Nepal. Of those home births, just under half were carried out without a trained professional. Due to the alarming rate of maternal deaths seen in the early 2000s, maternal health in Nepal has been a focal point for many years. Even though complications during births at health centers still occur, the presence of trained professionals during birth remains the best way to avoid preventable deaths. Many organizations have partnered with the Nepalese government and are working hard to bring these numbers down even further every year.

4 Facts About Maternal Health in Nepal

  1. Nepal’s maternal mortality rate decreased about 71 percent between 1990 and 2015. The decline is attributed to free delivery services and transport in rural areas, access to safe delivery services and medicines that prevent hemorrhaging. In rural parts of Nepal, it has historically been much more difficult to receive proper healthcare. Through the combined efforts of various organizations and the Nepalese government, the number of facilities in remote areas has increased. Additionally, the incentive to travel to these facilities has risen. In 2005, the government began giving stipends to pay for transportation costs. Four years later, the government passed the Safe Motherhood Programme, which allowed free delivery services to pregnant women. In 2011, the government continued to promote safe pregnancies by adding another incentive of $5 for attending antenatal checkups. Through these efforts, the government has had an enormous impact on the development of maternal health in Nepal.
  2. Midwifery is one of the most important services for maternal health in Nepal. Fast intervention and postnatal suggestions from a skilled midwife allows for better postnatal care for both mother and child. In Nepal, only about 27 percent of women receive care within 24 hours of giving birth. This increases risk of hemorrhaging and heavy-lifting related injuries shortly after giving birth. It also increases risk of possible complications for the baby during and directly after birth.
  3. Midwifery education ensures that midwives are up to date on the most current practices and procedures for successful pregnancy and birthing. Institutions have partnered with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) to offer combined education for nursing and midwifery. In 2011, Nepal and the UNFPA committed to training 10,000 birthing attendants. However, in a report about midwifery authored by the UNFPA, midwives do not have specific legislation for their work. Midwives are not completely recognized under the law nor are they regulated, which results in issues with proper training and resources. Therefore, greater recognition and accessibility will allow midwives the resources, training and encouragement that they need for success.
  4. Women of lower socioeconomic status have more complications surrounding maternal health. The National Medical College Teaching Hospital in Nepal published an extensive report of the challenges surrounding maternal health in Nepal. A specific challenge mentioned in this report includes the socioeconomic influencers of maternal health. Due to poor nutritional health in women of lower economic status, issues such as anemia can cause mortalities. Additionally, rural areas record about 280 birth complications per day. Although there has been significant work since then to expand access to cesarean sections and birthing centers in rural areas, there are still around 258 women dying per 100,000 live births.

As maternal health in Nepal becomes more of a focus in the healthcare system, there are certain policies and programs that must be expanded upon. Midwifery education and access to services are the most important programs for successful maternal health in Nepal. Many experts in the field continue to push for individual programs that focus primarily on methods for successful midwifery education and overall increased care for maternal health in Nepal.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky

Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health in IndiaWomen’s health in India is still vulnerable to several risks such as high maternal mortality rates, lack of preventative care and misinformation about family planning and contraception. Despite this, India has proven itself a pioneer in technological innovation among developing countries and it is putting its new innovations towards improving women’s healthcare. 

Maternal Health and Newborn Development

Although maternal mortality rates in India have declined substantially in the last decade, the number of recorded deaths related to pregnancy complications in the country is still remarkably high. A report by UNICEF estimates that 44,000 women die due to preventable pregnancy-complications in India yearly. These complications often stem from a lack of knowledge and inherently the inability to understand that their baby isn’t developing correctly. This lack of knowledge results in fewer women seeking treatment that could save their lives. To combat this, organizations are developing innovative mobile apps to help women stay proactive and educated about the health of their babies and the status of their pregnancies. 

For example, in 2014, MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action), an organization dedicated to women’s maternal health in developing countries, developed a digital service called mMitra. The service sends recordings and SMS messages to new and expectant mothers with crucial information about the early stages of pregnancy and child development within the first year of life. The app, which collected 50,000 subscribers within months of its launch, sends educational content to women in their native languages and at times of their choosing. The app,  mMitra ultimately aims to help women pick up on pregnancy and child development issues early and seek treatment before symptoms escalate or endanger the mother and child. 

Breast Exams and Preventative Care

Mammograms are an essential part of preventative care for women globally. Despite this, it is estimated that over 90 percent of women in the developing world go without this essential screening examination. Particularly, in India, high-costs, unsustainable electricity and lack of properly trained radiologists are major causes for the inaccessibility to mammograms and other procedures like it. More women die of breast cancer in the country than anywhere else in the world (around 70,000 women annually). While these high death rates due to inaccessibility to preventive care are tragic, they’ve inspired innovative medical devices that have revolutionized women’s health in India. 

One such device, known as iBreastExam was invented by computer engineer Mihir Shah. Shah invented the device to ensure that women in even the most rural parts of India could get affordable, accurate breast exams and seek treatments as needed. The battery-operated wireless machine is designed to record variations in breast elasticity and performs full examinations in five minutes, posting and recording results through a mobile app. Not only that, the exams are painless, radiation-free and are extremely affordable at $1 to $4 per exam.

Family Planning and Contraceptive Options

Lack of family planning and knowledge of contraceptive options is another challenge in improving women’s health in India. Many Indian women shy away from modern family planning and contraception due to things like familial expectations, cultural influence and a general fear stemming from misinformation from disreputable resources. Family planning and the use of contraception could reduce India’s high maternal mortality rates. However, without proper education on these matters, it is difficult for young Indian women to make informed decisions about what options are best for them. But, in the midst of India’s technological revolution, an increase in accessibility to mobile devices is steadily transforming the way women are gaining health awareness in India. 

There is a particular mobile app that is playing a huge role in improving women’s health awareness in India. Known as Gyan Jyoti, the mobile app provides credible information through educational films, TV advertisements and expert testimonials from doctors. It also acts as a counseling tool for ASHAS (appointed health counselors). The app allows ASHAS to expand their knowledge of family planning through an e-learning feature, customize their counseling plan according to the needs of clients and monitor and store client activity in order to provide the best information possible. 

Overall, while there are still many challenges in improving women’s health in India, the country has proven itself to be a pioneer in technological innovation. Just as well, it’s proven that transformation is possible by putting its innovations towards women’s health awareness through mobile apps, life-saving hand-held devices, and educational platforms that can be accessed at the click of a button. 

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr


Maternal Health in the Gambia

Maternal health continues to be a concern in developing countries around the world. Although overall maternal mortality decreased by 44 percent from 1990 to 2015, many nations still have a long way to go if the goal of fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births is to be reached by 2030. Of note, despite improvements, the maternal mortality in The Gambia remains one of the highest in the world, with 706 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Maternal mortality is a reflection of the disparities between the rich and the poor, with 94 percent of all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries. The fact that 50 percent of The Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line contributes to the high rates of maternal mortality in the nation.

A majority of the complications that lead to maternal deaths are preventable or treatable. However, either because the mother is giving birth outside of a health care facility or due to a lack of supplies or expertise, the necessary care is not always provided.

The main causes of maternal deaths are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure and delivery complications. Other deaths are caused by malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

Contributing Factors

In The Gambia, the national maternal mortality ratio decreased by 46 percent between 1995 and 2015. This can, in part, be attributed to an increase in antenatal care coverage, as 86.2 percent of Gambian women now receive antenatal care from a skilled health professional.

For deliveries, however, only 57.2 percent take place in the presence of a skilled health professional. Most women deliver at home with a traditional birth attendant; the main barriers to giving birth in a health care facility being insufficient time to travel and lack of transportation.

Maternal health in The Gambia is further complicated by social and cultural factors that contribute to pregnancy complications and the low percentage of women who give birth at a health facility or with a health professional. A study done in rural Gambia found that there were four interrelated factors that impacted maternal health:

  • Pregnant women’s heavy workload
  • The gendered division of labor
  • Women’s inferior status in the household
  • Limited access to and utilization of health care

Women in rural Gambia generally work alongside their husbands on farms, a fact that does not change even with pregnancy. Gambian women described being physically and emotionally exhausted from physical labor in the field and the house, noting that they did not get sufficient rest at any point during their pregnancy.

This is connected to the way labor is divided between men and women, as women often work longer hours than their husbands, regardless of whether they are pregnant or not. Social practices prevent men from doing certain household chores while their wives are pregnant to allow them to get more rest, which contributes to poor maternal health in The Gambia.

The activities that women continue to perform can also have negative impacts. Women noted that they had to fetch and carry water from long distances, pick groundnuts and cook with firewood, all of which are health risks for pregnant women.

Additionally, women have less control than their husbands, largely because they are economically dependent on them. Despite doing equal work in the field and more work in the house, women receive no financial benefits. This keeps them from becoming economically independent and forces them to rely on their husbands, giving their husbands more power.

As a result, many women who wanted to stop working could not unless their husbands allowed it. They also could not make certain decisions, including where to give birth, without the oversight of their husbands, contributing to a lack of utilization of health care facilities. As women are often required to work up until they give birth, their workload prevents them from being able to travel to a health care facility in time for delivery.

Improving maternal health in The Gambia, therefore, is connected to women’s autonomy. In addition to improving access to health care facilities and ensuring adequate supplies are available, work needs to be done to ensure that families are educated about the dangers of working during pregnancy and that women have the ability to make decisions for themselves about where to give birth.

Improvement Efforts

Other efforts are also important to decreasing maternal mortality in The Gambia. Within the last decade, the Horizons Trust Gambia and The Gambian Ministry of Health partnered with an organization called Soapbox to launch the Maternal Cleanliness Champions Initiative aimed at reducing infections from childbirth.

One of the main projects of this initiative is the distribution of Clean Birth Kits, which include soap, a clean blade and a clean plastic sheet to help ensure that expectant mothers have sanitary materials regardless of whether they are giving birth at a hospital or at home.

The Maternal Cleanliness Champions Initiative also worked to create a manual for cleanliness standards at health care facilities in The Gambia, adapting the manual to work with the local context of each hospital. The program also supported the training of facility staff to ensure that they knew how to adequately clean to prevent infections and other health complications.

These important efforts need to be combined with others to form a holistic approach to improving maternal health in The Gambia. Only coordinated efforts that are adapted to cultural and social contexts will be successful in significantly reducing maternal mortality in the nation.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr


India Doubles
The Indian Parliament has recently passed a bill that more than doubles the nationally mandated paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The policy change makes India the country with the third-longest paid leave for mothers in the world, trailing behind only Norway and Canada. The new requirements for paid maternity leave in India will expand opportunities for many women.

The bill requires implementation in businesses with more than 10 employees. In a country that has been previously criticized for its lack of gender equality, the bill is revolutionary to the growing economy. The new legislation also requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide nurseries for childcare in close proximity to their offices.

The months following the birth of a child often call for a reassessment of finances and economic security. Families in developing communities can be hit especially hard by new expenses.

In the U.S., no federal law requires employers to provide paid leave for new parents. Only a few U.S. states have legislation that addresses the issue. This lack of legislation is often harmful, and the Census Bureau reported in 2011 that more than 40 percent of new mothers are forced to take unpaid leave. Human Rights Watch has also conducted studies on the impact of a lack of paid leave for new parents in the U.S. After conducting in-depth interviews with 64 American couples, the organization found that just over a third of the families had gone into debt in the months following the birth of a child.

Positive Social Impacts of the Bill

Activists have stated that the extension of paid maternity leave in India will encourage women to more deeply explore potential economic opportunities. A survey that was released last year by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India brought to light the fact that a quarter of Indian women in urban areas quit their jobs after having their first child. Hopefully, the new bill will help lower this number.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, expressed on social media that the new bill is a “landmark moment in our efforts towards women-led development.” The Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, says that the law will “help thousands of women and produce much healthier children.”

In terms of social norms and gender stereotypes, India has a long way to go before women are on the same playing field as men. The extension of paid maternity leave in India has the potential to encourage economic participation from women across the country, and hopefully, it will do just that.

Not only will the law help women in India, many are optimistic that it will inspire other countries to follow suit.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in Haiti a Concern For UNFPA
The U.N. Population Fund has expressed concern over the effects that Hurricane Matthew will have on the more than 8,400 pregnant women in the country and those who will need cesarean sections or other maternal care. It has pledged to make maternal health in Haiti a key aspect of its response to Hurricane Matthew.

The organization has pledged to send 252 emergency reproductive health kits to 450,000 people in the next three months. These kits will include resources such as medicine and supplies for safe deliveries, rape treatment and voluntary family planning. The organization also plans to certify local midwives through their own UNFPA supported schools and to open clinics that these midwives will staff. In total, UNFPA hopes to raise $5 million for this project.

UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin explained the necessity for the project, stating, “Hurricane Matthew delivered a severe blow to Haiti’s health facilities, whether by flooding these centers or blowing off their roofs and putting them out of service. Our urgent task is to protect the health and rights of women and girls and to ensure that their basic needs, which are often overlooked in humanitarian situations, are quickly met. We will work to help women give birth and live, despite this tragedy.”

Maternal health in Haiti has been an issue in the country since well before Hurricane Matthew. Haiti has the highest maternal and infant death rates in the western hemisphere and, in light of Matthew’s aftermath, these rates are expected to rise. UNFPA warned in a press release that an estimated 13,650 women are expected to give birth in the next three months, and the storm’s destruction of many healthcare facilities on the island has raised serious concern among human rights groups.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 830 women die each day from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 99 percent of these deaths occur in the developing world.

Adolescent pregnancies are very common in Haiti, and since family planning has been interrupted by the storm, such pregnancies are expected to rise in the next few months. According to a 2012 survey, approximately 11 percent of adolescent girls in the country have at least one child.

Magdala Bourdeau, a midwife in Haiti told UNFPA, “Since November 3, we have carried out several deliveries and received several types of pathologies, such as pre-eclampsia, severe anemia, high blood pressure and premature pregnancies.”

Dr. Joanne Liu, the international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, reports that the five main causes of maternal death include hemorrhage, sepsis (infection), complications resulting from unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labor. Such conditions are usually preventable with access to medical care, but maternal death rates remain high in areas where disaster or conflict has limited access to such care.

The U.N. Population Fund aims to protect maternal health in Haiti and hopes to raise the $5 million that it needs in time to do so.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Mother's Delivery Kits Provide Affordable Birthing Supplies
After a close friend died during childbirth, Adepeju Jaiyeoba founded the Brown Button Foundation, an organization in Nigeria that trains birthing attendants in 2011.

Training the birthing attendants led Jaiyeoba to another realization: the supplies being used to deliver babies often were not sterile and posed hazards to the health of both the mother and baby. In response, Jaiyeoba started the Mother’s Delivery Kits in 2013, a for-profit company that provides affordable birthing kits with safe and sterile equipment.

Jaiyeoba intended for her kits to be used as a safe alternative. However, it is not uncommon for dangerous practices to be used when health care practitioners and families lack access to safe and sterile birthing tools.

This is especially common in rural Nigeria. For example, traditional birth attendants may cut the baby’s umbilical cord with a rusty blade or suck mucus out from the baby’s nostrils to prevent them from asphyxiating. Both practices can lead to infection. In contrast, the Mother’s Delivery Kit provides sterilized scalpel blades and a mucus extractor along with another 13 to 15 sterilized delivery tools.

Development of the Mother’s Delivery Kit has been so influential that Jaiyeoba was recognized by President Barack Obama during the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Presidential Summit in 2014 for her ventures.

Mother’s Delivery Kits provides birthing kits for health centers, hospitals, university teaching hospitals, maternal and child health organizations and Traditional Birth Attendants. They have about 205 attendants and institutions that have registered for a consistent supply. Over 7,500 kits were sold in the first year alone. Such use has yielded a 100 percent safe delivery record.

As of 2015, 11,000 kits have been delivered. This life-saving company hopes to continue expansion through Nigeria and franchise their model to other organizations in countries with similar problems of high maternal and infant mortality rates during childbirth.

Laura Isaza

Photo: Flickr

Health_mother_ Child Mortality

USAID is working with the Ethiopian government to reduce maternal, neonatal and child mortality rates, according to their website. Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of maternal deaths in the world.

“Women have a one-in-52 chance of dying from childbirth-related causes each year,” according to USAID. “Every year, more than 257,000 children under the age of five die and 120,000 die in the neonatal period. More than 60 percent of infant and 40 percent of under-five deaths in Ethiopia are neonatal deaths.”

Increasing Health Care Services

This dire situation calls for extensive health care services. Ninety percent of Ethiopian women give birth in their homes in order to observe cultural traditions and be surrounded by company they trust. Health facilities can spread awareness about the value of institutional delivery in decreasing mother and child mortality rates; many mothers have never heard the benefits of skilled birth attendance and postnatal care.

Preventable complications like hemorrhage, infection, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labor are to blame for 80 percent of maternal deaths.

USAID has intervened in family, community and facility care by increasing accessibility of health services. A health extension program includes basic obstetric and newborn care, essential newborn care, management of neonatal and childhood illnesses, coverage of immunizations and the early identification and treatment of sick children, all of which go a long way to decreasing the child mortality rate.

Additionally, they funded the Integrated Family Health Project, an activity that seeks to promote and strengthen family planning and maternal, newborn and child health practices and services. With the cooperation of health programs throughout Ethiopia, the IFHP impacts about 40 percent of the country’s entire population.

The Health Ministry and various organizations provide health facilities with ambulances, equipment and skilled staff. The majority of communities in Ethiopia lay in rural regions that place women in a vulnerable position when a complication arises during childbirth, and many fatalities occur in the transfer to a health facility.

Global Involvement

The Government of Germany recently contributed 10 million euro to UNICEF, bolstering its emergency response to drought affected regions in Ethiopia. This support will provide life-saving assistance to severely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women. Lack of nutrition threatens close to half of a million children under the age of five and nearly 140,000 lactating women in the Somali area.

By providing preventive, promotional and basic curative health and nutrition services to mothers, infants and young children, USAID and other organizations like UNICEF are saving lives and combating illness and disability.

Emily Ednoff

Photo: Flickr

Destigmatization of Breastfeeding in Urban India
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated internationally every year from August 1-7th. Each year, there are various events and activities intended to educate about the benefits and encourage the practice. The theme this year was ‘Women and work – Let’s make it work.’ This year, added emphasis was placed on advocating for widespread maternity leave and other accommodations for working mothers.

Many organizations such as UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), and the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) have worked both independently and jointly with the Indian government to provide information and spread awareness throughout the country. The breastfeeding rates are higher in the rural Northern states than in the urban South.

UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Gayatri Singh states, “The government of India has laws, policies and programs to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. UNICEF supports national and state governments in the development and implementation of infant and young child feeding policies and plans for promoting optimal breastfeeding.”

Singh goes on to say, “Communication and advocacy activities on breastfeeding are also a key component of UNICEF’s support. We also support governments to design strategies for social and behavior change communication and in the implementation of the strategies through multiple communication channels.”

In an effort to promote breastfeeding, the Indian government enacted the Infant Milk Substitute (IMS) Amendment Act in 2003 which prohibits any form of advertising claiming newborn formula as an equivalent option.

“In India, between 2006 and 2013, there has been an improvement in the breastfeeding rates. The latest data shows that 44.6% of children are put to breastfeeding within one hour of birth and 64.9% of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed,” states Singh. He goes on to add that while knowledge of health benefits appear to be even higher, there are societal factors hindering the practice.

Dalvinder Kaur, a public relations specialist, states, “A lot of people, while thinking of breasts, automatically think of sex, as if that’s their primary reason for existence. I feel that it is pretty much the heart of the matter. Women’s breasts are often defined as sex objects–and nothing more. And since sex is basically a taboo in the public realm, breastfeeding ends up being perceived as some sort of indecent, out-of-bounds behavior.”

Dhanya Ranjit, a software engineer and mother speaks on the stigma attached to breastfeeding, “Women find it difficult to breastfeed and more so, to nurse in public because of the lack of support from any quarter. They also don’t see it happening around them. While I was very hesitant to breastfeed my older child in front of others but the encouragement and exposure to information through the Facebook support groups made me realize that it is as natural as an adult eating food in public.”

As is the case with many social movements, the internet can be utilized very effectively to raise awareness and garner support. “Big Latch On” is an international gathering that occurs in many cities during World Breastfeeding Week and event calls for mothers to join together publicly and breastfeed together. Through a social media campaign, a “Big Latch On” event was held this past August 1st in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. The organization started in New Zealand but has spread to many countries around the world.

Recent attempts at normalization in mainstream media have begun to manifest themselves as well. Indian cinema has begun to prominently display breastfeeding such as in the recent blockbuster movie Baahubali. The highly anticipated film cost $40 million and is the most expensive movie in Indian history. Whether purposeful or not, the display of breastfeeding in such a popular film shows marked progress towards shifting attitudes of the viewers.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: India Times, Jantaka Reporter, IBN Live
Photo: Flickr

Maternal_and_Child_HealthDuring the 2015 Call To Action Summit, health ministers and global experts take a look at the progress that has been made. USAID has helped save the lives of an estimated 2.5 million children and nearly 200,000 mothers since 2008.

It has been a little over a year, in June 2014, since USAID introduced its newest strategic plan for maternal and child health. They hope to prevent the deaths of 15 million children and 600,000 mothers by 2020.

At the summit the participants reviewed the impact the USAID’s support has had all around the world; often putting a name and a face to those benefitting from the aid provided.

In India, mothers like Satyawati now know how to best take care of their newborns and other children thanks to the ability to obtain health-related knowledge and help from a local health worker.

Because Satyawati has access to this information, she has had her children properly vaccinated and employs proper hygiene practices in her home. In 1990 in India, children under the age of five had a mortality rate of 126 per 1,000 live births but in 2013 that number has been reduced to 53 per 1,000 live births.

Also, thanks to the support of the USAID, 27 hospitals in Malawi now have a device called a Pumani bCPAP that helps newborns with underdeveloped lungs breathe until they can do so own their own.

This device has tripled the survival rate of babies like Gloria Mtawila’s son Joshua, who stayed on the machine for a month until he could breathe on his own and is now a completely healthy baby.

All across the world bundles of joy are being born to tired but radiant mothers. Hospital staff assures that both have the best possible care in these first crucial hours, days and sometimes weeks after childbirth.

But also all across the world there are mothers on makeshift cots or laying on dirt floors. They and their babies do not have dedicated hospital staff looking after them.

Mom did not have access to prenatal vitamins and baby may not have access to life-saving vaccines. With poor living conditions, poor pre and post-birth care, and a poor quality of life all around, mom and her little one may not make it.

This is what USAID is working to prevent. USAID’s maternal and child health programs focus on cost-effective initiatives such as enabling access to nutritional supplements and vaccines.

The USAID has achieved great success. Maternal death rates have decreased by five percent in each of its 24 target countries while child mortality rates went down by four percent.

But this is still not enough. The USAID hopes to receive $850 million in funding for the maternal and child health program in order “to reduce child mortality to 20 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births in every country by 2035, and to end preventable maternal deaths” (

Through this initiative, the USAID has inspired developing countries to develop strategies to reach these goals, and make the eradication of unnecessary maternal and child deaths possible.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: USIAD, Interaction, Call to Action
Photo: Google Images