I really wish you could have been in the room with me yesterday.
I attended Save the Children's press conference for the launch of its Missing Midwives report, a report that highlights the discrepancies around the world in something so natural as childbirth and the deaths that occur, simply by not having the necessary healthcare or education available.
I know this subject is "off topic" for a blog that normally discusses waste, but poverty is another issue about which I am very passonate and I believe that in many ways the subjects are connected simply through the imbalances that exist between the wealth of developed countries and the poverty of the under-developed world. Yesterday's event certainly highlighted these contrasts.
Just before the press conference started, I had an unexpected opportunity to interview broadcast journalist Natasha Kaplinksy, who is one of the high profile supporters adding their voice to the campaign. I asked her to tell me more about the issues and what ordinary people like me can do.
Natasha began by introducing the most appalliing statistic that around the word 1000 women and 2000 babies die every single day, for what she describes as "for just the want of a bit of extra bit help". She went on to highlight the fact that at birth, there exists the greatest contrast between the developed and under-developed world in that just 1% of women in the uk give birth alone compared to 94% in countries such as Ethiopia. Perhaps the most startling statistic of all was that in Rwanda 400,000 babies born every year yet there are only 46 midwives across the whole country. By contrast in the UK there are 26,825 working midwives helping to support 749,000 births per annum. Now that's a statistic that makes me feel lucky.
As a mother of two children delivered safely by health professionals in the UK, of which one was a very long and complex birth, I can't even imagine what it must be like facing childbirth without any medical support. However, having attended yesterday's conference, I can now see how something that is such a joyous occasion for many women and their families could easily be described as a death sentence for many more. And experts such as the Royal College of Midwives' Frances Day-Stirk, are calling for action and education to make more midwives and healthcare professionals available worldwide and to tackle the Millennium Development Goals that are committed to reducing both child and maternal mortality
The message that came through yesterday, which was really loud and clear, was that the solutions that need to be put in place aren't complex and as a global society we can make a difference.
Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children UK said,
“We are calling on rich and poor country governments to put health workers at the heart of their plans. World leaders pledged to do just that last year, but now they need to deliver the funds and political will to support this pledge. Without it, mums and babies will continue to die needlessly every day.”
As I listened to the tales of those who had visited some of the countries that need help, I could understand how such action could make a real impact, whether it's training more midwives to help with births or providing mothers with home-birth kits that include something simple as a sterilised razor blade to cut their own umbilical chord without risk of infection. Yes, many new mothers really have to do such a thing and a clean blade can make a huge difference to reducing the child and maternal mortality rates.
Returning to my initial interview with Natasha Kaplinksy, as our family puts in place arrangements to celebrate Mothers Day tomorrow, its her words that strike a real chord with how that fits into our global society. And that's "That we remember how lucky we are and that we can make a difference. We can all make a difference, by making small changes to our lives we can save other people's lives. It's such a small thing they need."
She also added, "The statistics blur the reality because they are so huge, but if we think about helping one person at a time, that really does make a difference. We just need to remember that a mother in any of those countries loves their child as much as we do and every mother wants the best for their child".
And that's what really caught in my throat. I can't speak for anyone else, but when I see those awful images on TV, I just see tragic pictures of suffering that's so immense it seems beyond our control and so far away. However if it were our friends or family that suffered the same lack of care, we'd be able to kick up much more of a fuss.
But I do feel optimistic that as individuals we can enable change and I'm saying this not to just readers from the UK but to visitors I know who come from across the world too.
Of course, Save the Children offices around the globe will always value any fundraising initiatives and donations that can support urgent causes like this, especially as for every £100 raised it means a midwife can be trained. However, they would also value any part you can play in raising the issue with your own government representatives too. With the United Nations summit taking place this September, your voice can help world leaders to pledge their political will and the funds to go with it, raising the profile of this issue when it comes to money that might already be ringfenced for development aid. Emailing your MP, Senator or whatever their official title may be, is a simple action that most of us can do, as well as sharing relevant links on Facebook and Twitter to spread awareness amongst our friends online.
But I've only been able to share a tiny glimpse here. For more details, you really should take a look at the Save the Children website, where there is much more information about the Mothers for Other Mothers campaign as well as a full copy of the Missing Midwives report.
And to see the inspirational impact that Save the Children has, please do watch this video. In a world so large, investment in 350,000 midwives shouldn't be beyond our international capabilities, should it?
Missing Midwives is part of Save the Children's No Child Born to Die campaign. Save the Children helps tackle child poverty in the UK and in over 120 other countries. More information about the charity's achievements and how you can support its work can be found at www.savethechildren.org.uk.