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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

Mothers of Ethiopia Part III: Pregnancy Complications

MEKELLE, Ethiopia — Dima Yehea's two-year-old son has large brown eyes and a sweet, carefree smile. He sits on his mother's lap wearing only an old T-shirt. Dima, dressed in a loose hospital gown, looks at me with intent, studious eyes. Her baby turns towards her, grabs her left breast with both hands and nurses for a few minutes. As the baby focuses on his meal, Dima concentrates on me, a Westerner in Ethiopia.

Mothers Of Ethiopia Part II: Escaping Child Marriage

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The first time Tadu Gelana's mother suggested she get married, Tadu thought she was kidding. Only 14 years old, Tadu had not yet finished school or had her first menstruation cycle. Tadu laughed at the suggestion. The second time her mother mentioned it, Tadu told her she wasn't interested.

Her mother did not relent.

Tadu's brother, who was about twice her age and had taken care of her for many years, had recently passed away. Tadu felt she should be grieving for the loss of her big brother, not preparing for a joyous wedding ceremony.

Mothers Of Ethiopia Part I: Zemzem’s Journey

JIMMA, Ethiopia — When Zemzem Moustafa went into labor with her fifth child - at age 30 - she could sense a problem. Living in a thatched-roof hut in Ilebabo, a rural village in western Ethiopia, she and her husband walked to the local health post. A health extension worker there could tell that the baby was in the wrong position, but the worker could not help Zemzem and referred her to the hospital. And so Zemzem's journey began, one that ends in tragedy for thousands of women in Ethiopia each year.

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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