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.
The Pitfalls of Protection. Gender, Violence and Power in Afghanistan