Research for Development and Justice

Preventable maternal death: a violation of women's rights

Alicia Ely Yamin (2009)

in Health and Human Rights


More than one woman dies every minute from preventable causes in childbirth, and for every woman who dies as many as 30 others are left with lifelong, debilitating complications. Moreover, when mothers die, children are at greater risk of dropping out of school, becoming malnourished, and simply not surviving. Not only is maternal mortality and morbidity a global health emergency, but it triggers and aggravates cycles of poverty that cause generations of suffering and despair. Asserting that these preventable deaths are an issue of human rights does not mean that poor governments are going to be blamed for not doing what they cannot do. Rather, understanding the profound injustice of disparities in maternal deaths makes it all the more urgent that donor states honor their funding commitments and that effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms are put in place to ensure that aid is going to the interventions that evidence has shown will save women’s lives. Moreover, maternal mortality is a human rights issue within high-income countries as well, where data show that ethnic and racial minorities suffer disproportionately from pregnancy-related deaths.



Litigating the Right to Health
Start: Jan. 2008 (Completed)
Keywords: Health rights, courts, health rights litigation, public interest litigation, social rights jurisprudence, health policy, health economics, medical ethics, priority setting
Geography: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, South Africa

Publications within same theme:

Book Chapter

Derechos Humanos y Justicia en América Latina en la Agenda Académica Noruega

Elin Skaar and Jemima Garcia-Godos (2015) in Benedicte Bull: Pensamiento social noruego sobre América Latina. Buenos Aires: CLACSO pp. 169-99

CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute)
Phone: +47 47 93 80 00 - From abroad: +47 55 70 55 65
Fax: +47 47 93 80 01
E-mail: - Web:
P.O.Box 6033 Bedriftssenteret, N-5892 Bergen, Norway
Visiting address: Jekteviksbakken 31, Bergen