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On Mother's Day, Easing Their Burden


Expectant mothers wait in queue for consultation at the maternity ward in Sudan's Northern Bahr al-Ghazal state (File Photo)

"Just in time for Mothers' Day, we are introducing the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, or MAMA."

Nearly every culture honors women by celebrating Mothers' Day. The date of the observance varies by country, but most, including the United States, have chosen to celebrate mothers on the second Sunday in May, which this year falls on May 8th.

Mothers are crucial to the physical, social and economic health of their families, communities and nations. Their health before, during and after childbirth is critical to the health and well-being of the child, and to the long-term security and economic stability of their families, nations and the global community.

Yet becoming a mother can be a dangerous and life threatening undertaking. "Every year," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a recent conference, "nearly 360,000 women worldwide don’t survive childbirth. Four million babies die during childbirth or within a few weeks. Most of these deaths can be prevented:"

"Improving the health and status of women and girls acts as a positive multiplier because when women succeed, they lift themselves, they lift their families and their communities along with them. According to a recent analysis published in The Lancet, half the reduction in child mortality over the past 40 years can be directly attributed to better education for women. If a woman knows better how to care for her child, she will demand more and receive more, enabling her to do so."

That is why women and children are at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. That is why this year, just in time for Mothers' Day, we are introducing the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action, or MAMA, said Secretary Clinton. "Women in developing countries, some of the women most at risk for pregnancy-related problems, will be able to use their cell phones to get health information via text messages or voicemails, and the information can be customized for the stage of pregnancy or the age of their children. Over the next three years, this $10 million partnership will be piloted in three countries – Bangladesh, South Africa, and India – and if it is successful, as we expect it to be, we will expand it," she said.

The MAMA Program is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development and Johnson&Johnson, with support from the United Nations Foundation, mHealth Alliance and BabyCenter LLC. The partnership was developed in collaboration with the White House Office of Science and Technology and the Department of State.

The MAMA Program is an example of how the United States is leveraging partnerships with the private sector to improve the lives of women in developing countries.

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