Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a woman dies from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Babies whose mothers die within the first six weeks of their lives are far more likely to die than babies whose mothers survive.
As I’ve travelled around the world I’ve met families for whom these aren’t simply tragic statistics. I’ve also met people devoting themselves to help mothers and children — and because of them, I’m hopeful.
Because so many of those people are Rotarians, I’m also proud. April is Maternal and Child Health Month in Rotary, a perfect time to tell you about some things Rotarians are doing that will make you proud too.
Last autumn, I visited a hospital in the town of Jekabpils, in Latvia. It’s a modern hospital. The doctors and nurses are caring, dedicated, and skilled.
But, despite their hard work, the maternal mortality rate had remained stubbornly high, due to a lack of vital diagnostic equipment and incubators.
And that’s where Rotary came in as 21 clubs from around the world joined forces for a global grant that provided what the hospital required.
In September, when I walked into the maternity ward, I saw state-of-the-art equipment, and I met patients who were getting the care that they needed — and that every mother and child in the world deserves to have.
In Brazil, club members worked with Rotarians in Japan on a global grant project that dramatically increased the capacity of an overstretched neonatal intensive care unit. New incubators, monitors, and other equipment have enabled the local hospital to save many more babies’ lives each year.
In Mongolia, a vocational training team from New Zealand organised instruction in emergency response techniques for doctors and midwives, set up a programme that taught midwives modern best practices, and researched and wrote a culturally relevant childbirth education manual.
That’s what I mean when I talk about transformational service, and it’s what Rotarians do best. Because of our networks, which span the globe; our community presence, which allows us to see what’s most needed; and our expertise, which encompasses countless skills and professions, we’re able to serve in a manner that has no equal.
And we’re able to Be the Inspiration as we help those who need us most.