Three Rivers Muse & News

The Kaweah Commonwealth is the weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, Calif. The coverage area includes what is collectively known as "Kaweah Country," from the highest peaks in Sequoia National Park to the Sierra Nevada foothills to the floor of the San Joaquin Valley.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ode to moms

I returned home Tuesday from a trip to Woodlake where I dropped my son off at high school, then took an hour out for a run. The phone was ringing as I walked in and it was my son informing me he was having a minor medical problem that needed my attention.

So back to Woodlake I went.

When I returned, I went to the computer to start my workday. A quick check of my email found a note from my daughter (who’s away at college) asking me to proofread a paper. I opened the attachment and saw it was 12 pages long!

And this is what I call a “Good Mom Day.” My kids are getting older and my assistance isn’t needed as much anymore, so when I get a double whammy like this, I’m thrilled.

Being a mother isn’t always as simple as this, even in the United States. According to the eighth annual “Mother’s Index,” which ranks the best — and worst — places to be a mother, the U.S. ranks 26th out of 140 countries.

In 2006, we were ranked seventh. The report is compiled each year by Save the Children, a U.S.-based independent humanitarian organization.

More children die in the first month of life in the United States than in any other developed country, except for Latvia. What gives our country such a dismal ranking is the inequality in providing access to healthcare.
Sweden and Japan provide free healthcare to pregnant women and newborns. In the U.S., healthcare is big business.

Here are the Top 10 countries (from 1 to 10) in which to be a mom based on mothers’ and children’s health, educational, and economic status: Sweden, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Spain, Germany.

Here are the Bottom 10 (from 131 to 140), which means conditions in these countries, all but one of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, are grim: Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Yemen, Sierra Leone, and Niger.

In these countries, one in 13 mothers die from pregnancy-related causes. One in five children die before his/her fifth birthday (in Sweden, it’s one in 150), and one in three suffers from malnutrition.

In Niger, only 16 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel. A typical mother has less than three years of education, and the life expectancy of a girl born today is 45 (in Sweden, it’s almost twice that number).

Also in Niger, only four percent of women use contraception; in Sweden, 72 percent of women use some form of modern contraception.

Did you have a little one that was up all night? Two siblings bickering? Tough day to be a mom, huh?

What if you had to raise those children in Darfur, Sudan? Mothers and their children are suffering from poverty, disease, and malnutrition, if they happen to survive the genocide.

They are dying at tremendous rates from preventable deaths due to poor access to routine healthcare. The leading cause of death among Darfuri women is complications during pregnancy.

Here is some of what mothers and their children are currently enduring in Darfur due to the ongoing slaughter by the “Janjaweed” militia. This report is from The Sunday Times of London: “Dozens of screaming toddlers in the Darfur region of Sudan were ripped away from their mothers and shot to death. Older children who tried to save their brothers and sisters were hunted down…”

Now let’s travel about 1,000 miles north to Iraq and consider the mothers raising their children in a war zone. Healthcare in Iraq is no better than that of a Third World country these days.

Prenatal care is almost nonexistent because just traveling to a hospital is a life-threatening task with gun battles, suicide bombers, and improvised explosive devices being the norm. Going into labor at the wrong time is another danger due to curfews and road closures.

Here’s one mother’s story as published in The Boston Globe earlier this year: “Noor Ibrahim felt labor pains at 9 p.m. … [She] decided to bear the pain until morning. At 3 a.m., her water broke. Once the sun rose, she, her husband, and her mother-in-law drove to the public hospital…

“When they arrived… a surgeon had just been kidnapped and the doctors refused to go to work. That left the nurses to deliver Ibrahim’s baby.
“For several hours, Ibrahim pushed. But her baby was big and she got tired. The nurses used forceps to try to pull him out. When that didn’t work, they told her to go to another hospital.

“The ambulance driver refused to take them to a private hospital in Baghdad, even after they offered to pay him.

“[The trio] got back into their own car and drove for 30 minutes as Ibrahim’s baby languished…”

Ibrahim’s son weighed nearly nine pounds. The mother survived this time; the baby did not.

Every woman, no matter where she lives, deserves to have access to education, adequate nutrition, healthcare, and family planning. Imagine a world or, for that matter, our own country, that provided these basics equally to all.

Mother’s Day is about celebrating our own mothers, but also take time to honor mothers around the world who are struggling everyday to keep their children and themselves alive.


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