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OP-ED on Mother’s Day: Release of Gambia Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS)

May 20, 2015, 11:00 AM

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this month we honor the women in our lives and around the globe who are mothers, grandmothers, and those who serve in the role of mothers. Today and every day, we are grateful for the women whose strength and resilience keep our families and communities together.

It is also an opportunity to reflect on the health challenges mothers face – challenges that in too many low and middle-income countries make it difficult for women to preserve their own health, safely give birth to healthy babies, or ensure their children live beyond their fifth birthday.

Today, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death and disease in women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa.Nearly 60 percent of people living with HIV/AIDS in the region are women. Around the world, more than 40 young women are newly infected with the virus every hour.

Childbirth takes the lives of 289,000 women each year, robbing them and their child of what should be one of the most joyous moments in their lives. Across sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of dying from childbirth is more than 47 times greater than in the United States.

While the statistics are alarming, the U.S. government, in close partnership with the people and Government of The Gambia, is working to secure a better future for mothers, mothers-to-be, and new borns.

The 2013 Gambia Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS) provides comprehensive data on fertility and mortality, family planning, and maternal and child health and nutrition, as well as information on maternal mortality and domestic violence.

The GDHS was carried out by The Gambia Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other donors.

The report also provides crucial data on household-based measurements of malaria and HIV prevalence, two of the most life-threatening infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report can be found here:http://dhsprogram.com/.

This is a massive step in analyzing the health needs and planning a comprehensive health strategy for the people of The Gambia, and in particular women.Over the last decade, investments through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, combined with Gambian government investments and those of other partners, have resulted in 3.3 million lives saved – many of them among pregnant women – through better malaria control.

The GDHS provides the government and civil society organizations with specific data to plan their interventions and work towards progress. For example, the results indicate that only 27 percent of women and 36 percent of men age 15-49 have comprehensive knowledge about AIDS.

This year, let us honor the mothers in our lives with a renewed commitment to ensuring an AIDS-free generation and ending preventable maternal and child death. With a clear path for action, we can deliver on this fundamental human aspiration and help improve the lives of mothers everywhere.

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