Issue

Global Health: Reproductive Health

Most maternal deaths, due to complications during and following pregnancy and childbirth, are preventable, and great strides have been made in improving maternal health and reducing the number of deaths. Between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality dropped by 45 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet, every day approximately 800 women still die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In 2013, the number of maternal deaths worldwide was 289,000 women.

Maternal health impacts families, communities and societies with far-reaching effects, especially in developing countries, where 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur. The risk of maternal mortality is highest for girls under 15, many of whom have no access to contraception.

Our Pulitzer Center grantees have reported from many countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Guinea Bissau, India, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia and Nigeria. They are covering a wide range of issues—teenage pregnancy, child marriage, illegal abortion, religious beliefs and attitudes towards family planning, and poor infrastructure. Their stories highlight the severity of the reproductive health crisis as well as some of the many efforts made to give more women access to better and safer healthcare.

Global Health: Reproductive Health

From Birth, Death

Standing in the only operating room in the only medical hospital in all of Guinea-Bissau, Marco Vernaschi watched a nurse take an unsterile needle out of her pocket and, without anesthetic, suture a woman's vagina after a difficult childbirth. The woman screamed. Mr. Vernaschi took a photograph. Moments later, she was required to walk out of the filthy room and go home.

She was actually fortunate. So few women have any medical care in the west African country of Guinea-Bissau that the United Nations regards it as one of the world's most dangerous places to be pregnant.

Dying for Treatment

Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest region on Earth, is a place where more than 600,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every year due to lack of proper care and only 30 percent of the population has access to health care at all. Photojournalist Marco Vernaschi is documenting the human costs, beginning with this work from Guinea Bissau.

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