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Reproductive Health

Boat Clinics Serve India's Isolated Villages

We load up in an SUV and make our way through the streets of Guwahati. It is raining, and much of this major city in northeastern India is flooded. Cars, men pedaling rickshaws and our SUV slowly edge their way through the water-filled streets. The water looks orange, stained from the clay that has eroded from the surrounding hills and clogged Guwahati’s drains. We are headed to meet a boat that will take a group of medical staff and us to visit a remote island on the Brahmaputra River.

The Dangers of Childbirth in Southern Mexico

Among dozens of other brightly dressed women, Eugenia Urbina has been waiting on the stairs of the main hospital in this central Chiapas town for nearly two hours. Nine months pregnant with her third child, the 24-year-old seeks prenatal care. The long wait makes her worry that when the time comes to give birth, the hospital will not have room for her.

"It happens a lot," Urbina said, and if it does, she'll have to pay more than she can afford to drive around in a taxi for up to an hour to find a clinic that can take her.

Mexico: Ethnic and Gender Inequalities

I first meet Maria Francisca Mendoza on the roof deck of a woman's organization known colloquially as Casa de la Mujer, where along with five other young women she is putting the finishing touches on a vagina made out of clay. They are now starting in on a set of brightly colored Fallopian Tubes.

Mexico: Protests in Oaxaca

I have only been in Oaxaca a few days when the protests start. In this, Mexico's second poorest state, political upheaval and fights over social justice go hand in hand with languid tourism, a vibrant art scene, and some of Mexico's best cooking. The central plaza, known as the Zocalo, is usually a giant tourist attraction and town meeting place, filled with overpriced restaurants, hawkers selling curios, old women pushing textiles, and children selling cigarettes and candy.

Mothers Of Ethiopia Part IV: Inside A Rural Health Post

MAIANBESSA, Ethiopia — I get into a UN Land Cruiser with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) staff coordinating my visit to Ethiopia and an official from the ministry of health to visit a rural health post. We leave the northern Ethiopian city of Mekelle, and its Obama Cafe and Obama Pool House, and drive about 25 kilometers along winding roads into the countryside. We pass donkeys with packages strapped to their backs and young boys using foot-long sticks to herd their families' cattle.

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.