By: Ryan Cherlin
Having seven children would be a challenge for any woman. In a developing nation like Mali, where the average number of children per woman is 6.6, calling it a challenge may be an understatement. Because they fall pregnant at an early age, young mothers don’t have the opportunity to finish their education, they aren’t able to work outside the home, and they face an increased risk of pregnancy-related health complications that could be fatal. Without contraceptives to plan how many children to have and when to have them, this scenario becomes reality for billions of women in the developing world and feeds the cycle of poverty.
There are an estimated 215 million women who wish they had the ability to plan their family but don’t have access to contraceptives. In some developing nations where health care systems are grossly inadequate, or in rural areas where they may be non-existent, the availability of something as simple as contraceptives can be a matter of life and death. Women understand the grave risk that comes with pregnancy when there are no trained health professionals or doctors to consult and provide care. The ability to mitigate that risk is a right that should be afforded to every woman.
A World Health Organization report in 2005 stated that 1 in 75 women in developing countries risk facing maternal death in their lifetime versus 1 in 7,300 in developed countries. At the extreme, in Niger a women’s lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications is 1 in 7 versus 1 in 48,000 in Ireland. Behind each of these statistics is a story of a mother who died giving life. Behind each statistic there are heart wrenching stories of broken families that lost a loved one. The stories are all the more tragic when the woman had hoped to avoid the pregnancy, but didn’t have access to contraceptives.
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