Tao of Motherhood
Maternal and Infant Health in Ghana
This May, I want to honor motherhood by drawing attention to the fight for maternal and infant health care around the world. I visited Ghana in 2012 with the UNFPA and was able to see firsthand the struggles women in that country face accessing adequate health care for themselves and their children. Ghana, a relative success story in Africa, is but a microcosm of a much larger problem. Women all over the developing world and impoverished women in the developed world face a very different reality than most of us have known as we welcomed our children into the world.
Ghana has long been known as Africa’s “Golden Child” because it has enjoyed long periods of relative peace and prosperity. A vital part of Ghana’s success are the long-standing policies the country has had in favor of maternal and reproductive health. Because of these policies and because of the efforts of the UNFPA, efforts launched in 1972 to ensure maternal and reproductive health, many Ghanaian women have access to adequate medical treatment during pregnancy and childbirth.
However, even with government policies and non-governmental organizations like the UNFPA working to ensure maternal health, the maternal mortality rate is still too high (350 deaths per 100,000 live births) and only half of all births are attended by skilled personnel. For all its economic vitality, Ghana still has a distinct divide between the north and south. The more rural northern area suffers from much higher rates of infant and maternal mortality and a fertility rate at nearly twice that of the rest of the country. One of the disparities between pregnant women in urban and rural areas and between the educated and uneducated is access to well-equipped facilities staffed by well-trained midwives and other medical professionals.
The rural north is also plagued by teenage pregnancies and girls in the 15 to 24 age group account for approximately one-third of all births every year. These young girls rarely have access to adequate family planning information and services.
As I traveled throughout Ghana in October of 2012, I was able to witness the valuable and effective work done by the UNFPA to address these issues. I met women who were faced with giving birth in less than ideal circumstances. I saw the importance of trained midwives to ensure the health of newborns and their mothers. I documented the strong communities of women that develop around childbearing, childbirth, and child rearing. In a country that is still very much a patriarchy, the women of Ghana, with the help of organizations like the UNFPA, are working to address the needs of women and their children.
It’s true, being a mother is a right and a blessing, but becoming a mother without adequate access to quality health care can be a tragedy.
Exhibition Dates: May 1 – May 31, 2013