The 5th Annual Women in the World Summit was held in New York City on April 3-5, 2014. This event brought inspirational women leaders from around the globe who shared incredible stories of overcoming hardship and oppression. Initially, you may feel overwhelmed, and at times teary-eyed by the challenges facing girls and women around the world, however you may also feel determined to continue the good fight, and in my case, defeating the high occurrences of maternal mortality in the developing world.
Day 2 of the summit included a panel discussion “Breakthroughs in the Fight Against Maternal Mortality” which was moderated by Soledad O’Brien and included Edna Adan Ismail, Director of Edna Adan University Hospital, along with Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck, and Princess Sarah Zeid. This is Edna’s 2nd appearance as a panelist in this summit. All three panelists play a major role in combating maternal mortality.
According to Ettie Higgin, Head of UNICEF field office in Hargeisa, “Somaliland has one of the worst maternal mortality ratios in the world, estimated to be between 10,443 and 14,004 per 100,000 live births.” Figures like that are quite alarming, but most of it is preventable.
Did you know that this is not just a developing issue? Approximately 800 women die each day in pregnancy or childbirth complications; approximately 2.6 million of stillbirths occur each year around the world and approximately 8000 stillbirths each day. Shockingly, United Nations ranks the United States 50th in the world for maternal mortality – with maternal mortality ratios higher than almost all European countries, as well as several countries in Asia and the Middle East. As Princess Sarah Zeid eloquently noted that ‘this means that 49 other countries are doing a better job than the United States in keeping women alive…sadly, there are more heartbreaks than breakthrough.’ This is not just an issue with developing countries this is a global issue.
Since the opening of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in 2002, Edna delivered approximately 15,000 babies and was able to reduce the maternal mortality rate in her hospital by three-fourths of the national average. Edna has trained over 300 midwives and has a goal of training 1000 midwives by 2016. “We have a system in place, there’s no time for Africa until such time as we have the resources you have. We must do the next best thing-train midwives.” stated Edna. When Soledad asked Edna to list her top 3 successes in tackling the high maternal and infant mortality rate, she stated the following: “education and training of midwives, equipment, and most importantly, the determination of my people.”
As you exit the conference, you feel a sense of empowerment and desire to continue the work you believe has led you to this path. You feel worthy of the fight and inspired to do all you can. I can’t stop hearing Dr. Maya Angelou’s words echoing through my mind, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
I commend the women on stage and applaud them on their efforts of bringing their heroic stories to the larger audience.
Watch Edna and the rest of the panel discuss Breakthroughs in the Fight Against Maternal Mortality.
Founder and President
Edna Adan Hospital Foundation
Here is another article about Edna’s panel, at The Daily Beast:
MOTHERS AT RISK: Fighting Maternal Mortality