Under the Safe Birth Even Here campaign, UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and Unite to Light (UTL) have launched the “Light for Life” project. This initiative will provide solar lights to midwives in humanitarian and conflict zones, as well as to rural regions without access to electricity.
According to the World Health Organization, 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. That is a death toll equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing, every single day. One of the most effective interventions to stop preventable maternal deaths is ensuring that a skilled birth attendant or midwife is available to assist with the delivery. However, in many villages across the globe, a lack of basic facilities such as electricity, impairs their efforts to ensure a safe delivery.
Midwives are crucial in regions that lack resources and are often the only trained healthcare providers available. Yet even with the best of training, a midwife is limited if she cannot see what she is doing. When a woman gives birth at night, or in a dark hut, often the only available light source is from a cooking fire, candles or a kerosene lantern. These options, when available, provide limited visibility and are dangerous due to their flammability and air polluting emissions. However, with a solar light, a midwife can help safely see and attend to the mother and child.
Over 75 percent of the world’s people affected by crises are women and children. When disaster strikes, women are faced with the loss of medical support, malnutrition and increased incidence of sexual violence. Their vulnerability is even higher in times of pregnancy: 3 in 5 maternal deaths occur in countries affected by, or prone to conflict or natural disaster. The Safe Birth Even Here campaign aims to make women’s health, safety and dignity a global humanitarian priority and mobilize action and funding to support women’s health in all humanitarian operations worldwide.
“At UNFPA, we have declared “safe birth, even here” because migration while pregnant can increase risk of complications. Therefore, pregnant women may be left behind, while others seek safer locations. And those left behind may face continued threats, often exacerbated by a collapsing health system,” says UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem.
“Solar lights are crucial for midwives, and ensure the health, well-being and privacy of the mother,” says Megan Birney, President of Unite to Light. “Last year, in partnership with UNFPA, we deployed 11,000 solar lights to the Bangladesh Midwifery Society for the midwives and the Rohingya refugee mothers they were helping. This year we will be working with UNFPA in Paraguay and Bangladesh to ensure that midwives are properly equipped to ensure safe births everywhere.”