Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article
Around the world on March 8, the evolution of a fight for equality is celebrated – International Women’s Day. And while we take a moment to recognize achievements, organizations like Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are working to focus our attention on the needs that still exist, including women’s access to health care.
“Every day, 800 women die from pregnancy-related causes,” says Melissa Pracht, digital content editor at MSF and editor of Because Tomorrow Needs Her, a campaign highlighting the fight for women’s health. A frightening 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“MSF works in nearly 70 countries, and most of our patients are women and children,” says Pracht. “In conflict situations right now in Central African Republic and in Syria, for example, health systems have collapsed and women have difficulty even finding medical care. In stable places, a woman in obstructed labor who cannot afford to pay for care can be left to die.
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“And in a lot of communities, women simply do not have decision-making power over when they can go to a hospital and whether family funds can be used to pay for hospital fees or transportation,” Pracht adds. “The situations can be complex but the needs are often very simple.”
Because Tomorrow Needs Her will be launched as an urgent call for more to be done for the specific health needs of women and girls around the world. A book, a photo exhibition, and a multimedia website at womenshealth.msf.org, this project brings startling statistics and first-hand stories to the forefront of the fight for women’s health.
“We want to highlight the challenges, successes, and what still needs to be done through stories of the strong women we treat, and those we have been unable to save,” says Pracht.
On March 4 in New York City, ahead of International Women’s Day, MSF will be hosting an expert panel discussion with the authors of Because Tomorrow Needs Her (MSF midwifes and OB-GYNs) alongside an exhibition of photographs by award-winning photojournalists Martina Bacigalupo, Patrick Farrell, Kate Geraghty and Sydelle Willow Smith. This event is free and open to the public at the Schimmel Center at Pace University. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for viewing the photography exhibit, and the panel discussion begins at 7:30 p.m.
“From the women who have walked for hours or days in dangerous circumstances to ensure their children get vaccinated and treated, to the women who have endured decades with an obstetric fistula; from sexual violence, to emergency caesarians–these women are remarkable,” says Pracht. “Their stories must be heard and they must be saved because, as the title of the book says, tomorrow needs them.”