“when women die in childbirth it is a violation of their rights.”

I’ve been inspired in the last week by reading about the women who are petitioning Uganda’s highest court to declare that “when women die in childbirth it is a violation of their rights.”

So far, their bids in the lower courts have been unsuccessful, but they’re pressing on.

$60 million. That’s what it would take to hire enough medical workers to meet Uganda’s needs–specifically, to staff village health clinics that lack people and supplies to the degree that an estimated 16 pregnant women die needlessly each day.

It’s not that the money is not available, say analysts–Uganda spent more than ten times that amount on Russian-built fighter planes last year, though they were not and are not at war–it’s that the Ugandan government isn’t making maternal health a priority.

A woman in Uganda has a 1 in 35 lifetime chance of dying in childbirth; just 42% of births are attended by skilled practitioners.

By contrast, a US woman’s lifetime risk of dying in childbirth is just 1 in 2100; virtually 100% of births are attended by skilled practitioners.

“The point here is not the money,” said Samuel Lyomoki, a lawyer who has joined in the call for action– “the problem here,” he said, “is a lack of commitment.”

But for the women pursuing an official declaration of their right to birth safely, commitment doesn’t appear to be flagging. Their willingness to speak up and insist that the government calls maternal death by its right name–a violation–may be what it takes to provoke the will to end preventable maternal death in Uganda as well as the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Because a more peaceful world is delivered by more midwives, not more munitions.

{Adapted from my recent post at Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog–original post here.}

“Ekizibu” –A Short Film About Midwives in Uganda