Women’s lives not a priority?

The world is seeing progress on such worthy goals as ending hunger and extreme poverty, conquering pervasive health menaces like AIDS and malaria, achieving universal primary education and ensuring environmental sustainability.

However, of the eight Millennium Development Goals the United Nations and partner organizations set in 2000 for achievement by 2015, lowering the number of the world's women who die in childbirth is the farthest from being met, according to UN Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, speaking at a meeting last fall  in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

"Women’s lives, dreams and rights have not been given the priority attention they deserve,” Obaid said.

"We know what works and needs to be done," Obaid said -- education, medical supplies and services that include prenatal care, the availability of skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetrical care.

But while funding for other health goals has risen significantly during this period, money tagged to improve reproductive health has remained static, Obaid said. And so the birth story continues to be a tragic one in 500,000 families throughout the world every year.

“It would cost the world $23 billion per year to stop women from having unintended pregnancies and dying in childbirth, and to save millions of newborns. This amounts to less than 10 days of global military spending. Instead, the world loses $15 billion in productivity each year by allowing mothers and newborns to die,” she said.

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