Storks Don't Bring Babies

By Davina

It's a lil magazine that two girls created based in Australia. The magazine aims to give young people a voice, giving them the opportunity to bring awareness to social and political issues of their choice. The first issue DRAFT #1 The Kids Are Alright is out today! 

My article Storks Don't Bring Babies

I remember watching Dumbo as a child and seeing the big white birds deliver baby tigers, zebras and giraffes to their mothers in the zoo. I was naïve and had a wild imagination, which prompted the conversation I had with my mum, ‘No Davina, storks don’t bring babies’. 

     Before we learn of the reality of this process, it is valid to question if storks don’t bring babies, than how much work does it take for a mother to carry and grow her baby? The stark contrast between storks in Disney movies and the reality of maternal deaths is shocking. We tend to polarize the idea of mothers and babies but the real world is not in black and white and certainly is not a Disney film. In fact, 57 percent of maternal deaths and more than half of global child deaths around the world come from Africa.

     The crisis of maternal and newborn child healthcare in Africa, and the recent efforts to make change by UN women, government officials and other non-profit organizations is a topic worth sharing and learning about. 

     Imagine peeking into the newborn unit at a hospital in a developed country like Canada or Australia. Babies are wrapped in pink and blue blankets lying safe and sound in their glass beds with the rest of their lives ahead of them. Maybe one day, one of them will grow up to be a world famous journalist speaking for those who don’t have a voice. One could work for the world health organization researching a cure for a disease, and another could become president someday. Meanwhile across the world, these strong, beautiful African women face adversity such as poverty, malnutrition and violence to carry a baby for nine months. Worse still, the babies often don’t make it to see their first birthday due to the failures of their healthcare system meaning the government does not provide sufficient healthcare for women. It is truly devastating. 

     The problem is this. According to the 2015 Global Health Observatory data conducted by the World Health Organization, 550 maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa every single day. The system is simply breaking for these women so there is not a sufficient amount of health care, reproductive and child healthcare and the prevention of HIV transmission. What does this mean? According to UNICEF in 2015, a child is five hundred times more likely to die in the first day of their life than at one month of age. Mothers across the continent die because of haemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders, unsafe abortions, lack of skilled birth attendants and comprehensive emergency care. The worst part of the story is that for every woman who dies from childbirth, there are twenty more in their place who suffer from untreated injuries and disabilities. This means that women will suffer from life long pain and be excluded socially and economically from society since they are unable to contribute. According to UN women in 2013, more than fifty percent of women still deliver without the help of doctors or nurses which is a powerful statement when considering our own practices and the inequity that exists to accessing quality care. 

     This singular crisis is clearly not the only problem in Africa but it is a product of all others. It stems from flawed government systems provoking gender inequality, virus outbreaks like the recent Zika and Ebola viruses, cycles of poverty and simple issues like no clean drinking water. This one, in my eyes, deserves our attention. The root of the problem is much deeper in which gender inequality is the main cause of women not receiving the proper healthcare. Experts stressed the importance of gender equality in reducing maternal mortality as part of the Africa Union Commission’s Annual Status Report on Maternal Newborn and Child Health in Africa in 2013. Gender inequality has a direct impact on a woman’s health, and her health is her right. Women’s social and economic statuses makes them unable to protect themselves and make empowered, independent decisions. A leading cause of the crisis is the high rate of underage pregnancies which leads to girls being forced out of school, no proper education, female mutilation, child marriages, violent relationships and cycles of poverty. The list goes on and on. Every day, thousands of women die. Maternal and newborn child health is vital to social, human and economic development on the continent.

     The solution is coming. “We are here today because we are committed to supporting you to have a brighter future. For without you, Africa has no future” said Ms. Mlambo Ngcuka, the UN Women Executive Director to all the staff at the newly rebuilt hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone. She urges young girls and mothers to stay in school, get an education and try to escape the cycle of poverty. The success of the project to restore the hospital in Sierra Leone's Kenema is vital for other maternal and child health centres in Guinea, Liberia and many other countries. UN Women will work to advance women’s well being and health by working alongside governments to re-build health services, end child marriages and meet women’s needs during humanitarian crises. Many organizations are launching initiatives to strengthen reproductive healthcare services between hospitals and communities, to give proper information and education to women. I believe it is essential that women speak out, bring awareness and help each other because this creates a network of information. As we move forward, if we commit to ensuring women receive full human rights - their health will flourish, as will communities and nations.