A Day to Advocate for Maternal Health and Rights

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Mother’s Day is celebrated across globe on the second week of the month of May every year.

This is a worldwide tradition that was conceptualized based on the fact that moms who were away from home were given acknowledgement for this day. More of a westernized culture and phenomenon, in the east part of the world it is celebrated where children and families particularly target a day to celebrate, acknowledge and appreciate the care and compromises of their mothers.

It’s a general population level celebration, which brings a great opportunity for social advocates to critically appraise and advocate for maternal health and rights.

Around 99% maternal deaths occur in developing countries including Pakistan. Most of these deaths are due to preventable causes. Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in South Asia.

This is because of the lack of systems approach to maternal health that includes lack of access to quality health care, less chances of equitable provision of maternal health care, truncated funding for health care sector specifically for women’s health, low quality maternal and child nutrition and other socioeconomic factors.

Women living in rural areas face the major brunt of suboptimal standards required to ensure safe motherhood. Government, development agencies, academia and policy makers should focus on bringing more investments to provide equitable opportunities for all mothers to experience a safe, healthy and thriving motherhood. This can be achieved using a multispectral approach to uptake the agenda of maternal health through:

– Prioritization of maternal health agenda in health care budget

– Enhancement of overall women’s health funding bracket based on population need basis

– Investment in health care facilities to streamline primary, secondary and tertiary level maternal healthcare services.

– Making health care equitable, accessible and approachable for women living in both urban and rural areas.

– Provision of cash transfers to families living under multidimensional poverty

– Offering a birth kit of survival having essentials for maternal and newborn health delivered families

– Build and disseminate evidence based maternal health strategies for prevention, early recognition and emergency, management of maternal morbidities.

– Capacity building of the existing task force on emerging trends and strategies to promote safe and thriving motherhood

– Inclusion of youth in maternal health task force

These strategies have the potential to escalate efforts made by various agencies towards bringing maternal health indicators to a more promising level.

On a lighter note, and to bring a true honor to Mother’s Day celebration and advocacy, it is always encouraging to note acknowledgement and praises that are done by families, social sectors and specifically children to celebrate and acknowledge the efforts of mothers and give them additional importance.

Whilst, it is also true that everyday should be a Mother’s Day as there is a famous quote by Edwin Chapin that ‘ No language can express the power and beauty and heroism of a mother’s love’.

Happy Mother’s Day today and every day.

Dr. Lumaan Sheikh, Chairperson and Service Line Chief (Women’s Healthcare) in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Aga Khan University, is the co-author of this blog.