Your Sept. 11 editorial “The Race to Improve Global Health” rightly points out that we still have a long way to go, particularly in saving mothers’ lives, the aim of the Millennium Development Goal on maternal health and universal access to reproductive health.
But many people may not realize that the leading causes of maternal death are largely preventable and treatable with inexpensive antibiotics and medicines that can stop post-partum bleeding and life-threatening hypertension and seizures. Even the simplest of supplies — soap and sterile razors — can save the life of a mother as she delivers.
The tragedy is that these basic, inexpensive supplies — available everywhere and taken for granted in rich countries — are scarce or nonexistent in the poorest ones. Increasing access to basic medicines and clean supplies would save the lives of more than 180,000 women every year, and as many as a third of vulnerable lives could be rescued if women had access to contraception to plan their pregnancies; 222 million women still lack this.
In the 21st century, no mother should die bringing new life into the world, especially now that we know what to do as we get closer to the deadline of the Millennium Goals.
This opinion was originally published in The New York Times.