Reading: Can a Soccer Ball Save a Woman’s Life? – Olga Khazan – The Atlantic

Very interesting article from the Atlantic about a science competition hosted and funded by USAID that seeks to find durable, low cost solutions to infant deaths. Before getting into the article, some very sobering stats on maternal mortality from the World Health Organisation –

  • Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.

Source.

From the Atlantic:

Every year, one million babies die the same day they were born, almost always in poor countries. Besides the sheer human tragedy of this fact, it has significant ramifications for the economies of developing nations, as well.Here’s what one popular theory suggests: When children frequently die in infancy, parents have a lot of kids in order to maximize the chances that some of them will survive, and they also invest less in each child. When fewer children die, meanwhile, fertility rates tend to decline, and something called a “demographic dividend” opens up: Parents are less burdened by hungry mouths to feed, more moms can work, parents invest more in each child, and economic growth accelerates. Many economists believe that this trend was in part responsible for East Asia’s remarkable growth over the past half-century.

via Can a Soccer Ball Save a Woman’s Life? – Olga Khazan – The Atlantic.

And a little more detail –

I asked Shah why USAID wouldn’t just funnel their money toward things like hospitals and roads in developing countries, rather than supporting solar suitcases and the like. Some countries lag so far behind in maternal health, he said, that the agency thinks it’s best to work within the nations’ current parameters — home births, unsanitary conditions, and all — rather than focus on larger-scale development.“A young girl born in South Sudan today is more likely to die in childbirth than to complete a secondary education,” he said. “We can’t wait another 20 years for South Sudan to look like Iowa.”

Click here to see some of the fantastic entries for the USAID competition.