06/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

No Woman Should Die Giving Life

Progress is being made to save the lives of mothers and newborns around the world. Still, every minute, a woman dies of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, leaving her baby more likely to die within two years. Most of these deaths could be prevented. Join The Huffington Post and the Mothers Day Every Day campaign in the global movement to call upon world leaders to invest in health workers and strengthen health systems so that every day, everywhere in the world, all women and newborns have access to lifesaving care.

Ask a mother anywhere about her top priority, and she'll say, without hesitation, her children. Every American family tells the story of a mother who went without luxuries or even comforts so her children could have the best possible start in life. We take such stories for granted because we usually take mothers for granted. They are always there with the extra sweater, the cookies, the hug when we need it, right?

Not necessarily. For many children, the stark reality is life without a mother. This Mother's Day, and every day, some 1,400 children will lose their mothers -- one every minute. In every generation, ten million mothers die, leaving ten million families bereft. Nearly all of these women die in Africa, or Asia, or in the poorest countries of Latin America. Many die giving birth or shortly after -- and everyone is the poorer for it.

In the United States "dying in childbirth" occurs rarely. But for women in most poor countries, pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death and disability. In Africa, one woman in every 26 risk dying of maternal causes, compared to 1 in 4,800 in the United States. In some countries, the numbers have gotten worse recently, not better.

We are so used to the idea that mothers are strong, resourceful and ever-present that we forget that mothers need protection too. Yet every minute, somewhere in the world:

• 380 women become pregnant, half of whom did not plan or want the pregnancy.
• 110 women experience a pregnancy-related complication.
• 40 women have an unsafe abortion.
• Ten people are infected with HIV. Most are women.
• One woman dies from a cause related to pregnancy or childbirth. Perhaps 30 more suffer injury or illness.

In 2000, leaders from 189 nations adopted the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Yet over halfway towards the 2015 target MDG 5, improving maternal health is the goal that has made the least amount of progress.

What would it take to accelerate progress towards MDG 5 and give mothers worldwide the protection they need? We already know what to do, and it is not rocket science, nor is it even as hard as curing cancer or AIDS. Giving women around the world access to contraceptives and family planning could reduce the number of maternal deaths by a third. Providing them access to skilled health workers during the time of birth and to emergency obstetric care when needed would save hundred of thousands of lives.

And it would be cost-effective. Study after study has pointed out that a country's economic and political health can be measured in the health of its women.

Let us not take mothers for granted anywhere in the world. With the right investments we can make motherhood safer and keep more of them alive for their children to love and for their families and communities to lean on. It is time to make every day Mother's Day.

The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood and CARE, two organizations at the forefront of global women's health issues, have joined Secretary Donna Shalala and UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and a distinguished group of advocates to promote Mothers Day Every Day, a campaign that raises awareness and advocates for greater U.S. leadership to improve maternal and newborn health globally. To learn more, visit or follow us on Twitter at @WRAglobal , hashtag #MDED .

Check out the rest of our Countdown to Mother's Day series by clicking here