“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Sound familiar? These words were said by the late Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

His point was simple- through education, anything is possible. Families can lift themselves up out of poverty, communities can prosper while developing sustainably, basic  human rights can be extended to all people, and children can grow up to live full, productive lives.

Simply put, education is responsible for the success of other outcomes.

Maternal Newborn and Child Health

Until I began working in development, Maternal Newborn and Child Health (aka MNCH) was an issue I’d rarely thought of. The vast majority of mothers I know have been fortunate enough to deliver their babies safely, and the majority of their children have grown up with good health. I now understand that this isn’t always the case.

135 million women give birth every year, but giving birth isn’t always the joyous occasion that it should be. Every year, 20 million mothers suffer maternal illnesses, and in 2013 a devastating 289,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Unsurprisingly-yet depressingly, 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries.

Unfortunately, the health disparity is also reflected in newborns and children as well. In 2013, over 6 million children died. 44% of these deaths occurred during the first 28 days of the child's life.

Now time for some good news… the majority of these deaths are preventable! And one solution is… you guessed it! Education.

With increased access to both primary and secondary education (especially for girls) we see a general increase in productivity. One major result from better education is more trained health workers. A hugely significant step in places like Africa where there is teh continent only pruduces 1 trained doctor for every 38 trained in Europe.

Additionally, children who receive an education benefit by building self-esteem and healthy behaviors and habits that will aid them down the line. For instance, they are more likely to marry and have children later, practice family planning, seek medical care when needed, and vaccinate themselves and their children.

I recently attended an event which confirmed the value of education in preventing maternal and child deaths. Nana Kuo, one of the panelists at the event explained that simple interventions including vaccines, breastfeeding, healthcare, and treating health conditions like diarrhea during pregnancy can all reduce mother and child mortality. This is great so long as mothers know to seek out these interventions. Education makes this possible.

Like the other issues that intersect with education, improved MNCH also leads to more kids in school. Here’s how: When a mom is able to safely deliver a healthy child, that child is more likely to obtain an education because they’re not prevented by illness. Similarly, when a mom is able to deliver her child without suffering complications, that child (hopefully) will not need to stay at home to care for the mother when he or she is older.

Today, 58 million primary school age children remain out of school, and more than half are girls. Our first step, global citizens, is to change this. By achieving universal access to education, we can ensure that more moms and kids not only survive childbirth, but go on to live healthy, full lives. To show your support for MNCH, sign the petition in TAKE ACTION NOW.


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