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Strides Made for Healthcare Equality

A recently published report from the UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund, titled “State of World Population,” estimated that nearly 500 maternal deaths per day occur in countries with humanitarian crises or conflicts. The report also revealed statistics stating that African-American women are more likely to die giving birth than white women. The gap in sexual and reproductive health between populations of African and white women is widening drastically. The UNFPA stated that despite the global gains in sexual and reproductive health and rights, “millions of women and girls have not benefitted because of who they are or where they were born.” 

Much of the improvements in health care access have mostly benefited wealthier women who are more likely to be part of the white ethnic groups in comparison to poorer women who don’t have the same access. Overall, globally, maternal death rates have dropped by almost a third, and the number of women using contraception has doubled; however, these improvements don’t benefit or affect the world’s poorest and marginalized populations. These populations remain largely out of the reach of the broader global gains that have been made in sexual and reproductive health. 

Inequalities in sexual and reproductive health and rights are all around us, but it’s difficult to notice them. In Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Alia and her husband were told that it was “undesirable” for them to have a baby because they were both blind. Like Alia, women with disabilities face discrimination when it comes to sexual and reproductive health due to their limited access to services and general exclusion from receiving a comprehensive sexual education. Disability is simply one of many faces of identity that affects rights to healthcare, including race, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. 

Despite the grim realities of health inequality, progress remains unachievable. Leadership from grassroots organizations and governments helps ensure that healthcare is accessible to women. Programs aimed at eliminating harmful practices like child marriage shine a light of hope in a dark space but require more support. The UNFPA states that “spending an additional $79 billion in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 would avert 400 million unplanned pregnancies, save 1 million lives and generate $660 billion in economic benefits. Training more midwives could also prevent about 40 percent of maternal and neonatal deaths and over a quarter of stillbirths.” Progress is achievable only if we work together to overcome and increase accessibility. 


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