14 Incredible Facts about Maternal Mortality in the United States

maternal mortality statisticsEvery 90 seconds, one woman in the world dies from pregnancy-related complications. Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, particularly South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, making it the greatest health disparity between developed and developing countries.

Because maternal mortality is the greatest health disparity between developed and developing countries, it seems like it’s really not a problem in developed countries like the United States. The statistics seems to illustrate that maternal health is a concern in other countries and not our own. But, that’s not the case. Let’s not pretend that maternal mortality isn’t a problem in the U.S.. Let’s not pretend American women aren’t dying in childbirth when we are capable of saving their lives. Here are X fast facts about maternal mortality in the U.S.

Maternal Mortality in the United States

  1. In the United States, between two or three women die from pregnancy-related complications every day.
  2. African-American women are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.
  3. One-third of all women who give birth in the United States, which is about 1.7 million women per year, experience some type of complication that has an adverse effect on their health.
  4. More than 34,000 women who experience some type of complication nearly die from that complication. This number, known as “near misses,” has increased 25 percent between 1998 and 2005.
  5. Forty percent of “near misses” could have been prevented.
  6. Half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. This delays the start of prenatal care, which increases the likelihood of complications.
  7. One in four women don’t receive adequate prenatal care in the first trimester.
  8. “Adequate prenatal care” is defined as 13 prenatal visits beginning in the first trimester. Twenty-five percent of women don’t meet this criteria, but this percentage increases to 32 percent for African-American women and 41 percent of Native American and Alaskan women.
  9. Native American women are 3.5 times more likely to receive late or no prenatal care than white women.
  10. Women with no prenatal care are three to four times more likely to die than those who have access to prenatal care.
  11. Among women with high risk pregnancies, African-American women are five and a half times more likely to die than white women.
  12. More than half of all maternal deaths occur between one and 42 days after birth. However, postpartum care is generally limited to one office visit six weeks after birth.
  13. The U.S. has no standardized, nationally-implemented protocols to prevent, recognize, and treat the leading causes of childbirth-related deaths such as blood clots or massive blood loss.
  14. There are no federal requirements to report maternal deaths and data collection at the state level is insufficient, meaning that opportunities to prevent future deaths are missed because we aren’t counting, reviewing, or learning what happened to cause these deaths.

What You Need to Know about Corporate Accountability

business and human rightsIf businesses and multinational corporations are considered people under the Citizen United ruling, then they ought to be considered people under a variety of other characteristics besides free speech. Businesses and multinational corporations should also be considered people when it comes to human rights, both in acknowledging them and in holding them accountable for human rights violations. If individuals are held to this standard, then they ought to be held by the same standard if they are going to be “people” under the law. Here’s what you need to know about corporate accountability and what governments need to do to ensure these organizations uphold human rights in their operations.

Of the World’s 100 Largest Economies, 42 are Global Corporations, Not Countries

As of 2010, a little less than half of the world’s largest economies are global corporations. That percentage increases to 58% when you look at the top 150 economies. Wal-Mart is the largest global corporation, with its 2010 revenues exceeding the GDPs of 171 countries (note that there are 195 internationally recognized independent states). The five largest energy companies in the world – ExxonMobil, BP, Sinopec, Royal Dutch Petroleum, and China National Petroleum Corporation – actually comprise 2.5% of the world’s global GDP. Those five companies combined have the same size GDP as Canada, which is the 10th largest country in the world.

Overall point: these multinational corporations are powerful, more powerful than much of the world’s independent nations.

Corporate Accountability is More than Getting Justice for Human Rights Abuses

The story of St. Louis and the Veolia water contract is a perfect example of holding corporations accountable for previous actions and preventing them from continuing their behavior. Safe drinking water is a basic human need as well as a basic human right, and shouldn’t be left to transnational companies to do what they want with it while profiting at the expense of the locals and the poor. St. Louisans made it clear that they didn’t like Veolia and that they weren’t going to accept handing over their water or what the company was doing in other parts of the country and the world.

One in four people in the world don’t have safe drinking water. Unchecked corporate power is one of the biggest human rights issues of our time, and although St. Louisans were successful in checking Veolia’s power, there’s still more to do be done with many other organizations and how they’re using their unchecked power to inflict harm.

Let’s Not Forget Their Influence in Politics

Everyone understands that Citizens United gave corporations immense power to influence public policy and to subvert the will of the people. Bank of America is bankrolling Big Coal, while Big Oil has a huge hand in trying to get the Keystone XL pipeline going. Monsanto spent millions in California to defeat a GMO labeling bill in the most recent election. There’s also the role the financial institutions played in preventing regulations of the financial industry, especially in the few years after the crisis. A big part of corporate accountability is holding these companies accountable to their stances and what they want as public policy as well as any human rights abuses and violations they may commit.

We need to challenge corporate election spending, as well as uncover what issues they are spending money on for lobbying and public policy. If corporations are going to spend millions upon millions of dollars to support or to defeat certain issues, then the public (and especially their customers) should know about these activities.

Related Links:

How to Track Relevant Human Rights Legislation

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Lobbying for Human Rights

How to Use Twitter to Promote Human Rights 

How to Use Pinterest to Promote Human Rights

pinterest human rightsPinterest is the fourth largest traffic source and the third largest social network in the world, meaning that it’s a great to post content and to promote human rights in an effective, visual way. Pinning your favorite human rights pictures and infographics on the topics you’re most passionate about is a great way to start your board (or several). However, with a little more strategy, you can use Pinterest as an excellent way to promote your causes. Here’s how to use Pinterest to promote human rights.

Have More than Just the Big Issue Stuff

Yes, it’s important to pin powerful photos of the issues, whether you’re pinning the photos of victims, of war zones, or of those on the ground working to make a difference. But, pin something other than the big issues once in a while because the big stuff can be overwhelming. Part of building awareness for human rights violations is to make people feel they can do something about the issue, instead of just know about it. By pinning photos of your events, pictures that lead to petitions, and pictures relevant to success stories and to organizations that are making a difference, your Pinterest content accomplishes much more than making others feel sad or guilty about the issue.

Pin Vertically When Possible

Because of Pinterest’s layout, portrait pictures attract more eyes than landscape pictures. Another trick to attract more attention is to use dark borders or to add text to what you pin (and I mean text on the photo, not just text in the description). The latter characteristics are features of a meme photo, and I’m not suggesting that you turn human rights into a series of memes, but that style of presentation can attract attention even if your photos aren’t a meme or are covering a serious topic.

Consider the Interests of Your Audience

Many who are interested in human rights are also interested in other things, and people interested in other things or specific political issues are also interested in human rights. Pinterest just added a new “interests” feature to make it easier for users to find pins relevant to your interests. When promoting human rights, you can take advantage of this feature by creating boards and pinning pins on “interests” other than human rights. For example, if you know eating organic or eating healthy is an interest among those you know that like human rights (that’s at least the case with our chapter), then creating a board with organic recipes or pictures of healthy foods isn’t a bad idea. It engages those who may like human rights but haven’t heard you or your issue yet.

Pin as Well as Repin

Most pins on Pinterest are actually repins. Although repinning is important to this network because it showcases the great work of others and encourages them to follow you on Pinterest, creating original pins is critical to positioning yourself as the go-to person on human rights or your specific human rights issue. Granted, repinning helps to do that also, but you don’t want everything you pin to be repins.

Related Links:

How to Use Twitter to Promote Human Rights

4 Things That Need to Be On Your Amnesty Chapter Website

How to Use Blogging to Promote Human Rights

Obama’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 7 of 8)

religious freedomHappy New Year! 2013, especially in the last 30 days, saw many human rights victories! These include Burma’s pledge to release the rest of its political prisoners and the release of Pussy Riot. What victories will we see in 2014? Hopefully, we’ll see a human rights victory or two in international religious freedom and the Obama administration’s engagement of religious leaders. This is the focus of part 7 of our exploration of President Obama’s leadership on international human rights.

International Religious Freedom and Religious Leader Engagement

Programmatic Responses

The Department of State manages approximately $10 million in foreign assistance programs to promote religious freedom, which includes current efforts to remove discriminatory and hateful material from Middle Eastern textbooks, promote greater awareness of intolerance and the plight of religious minorities globally, and hold discussions with the Pakistan government, civil society, and the religious community on issues such as curriculum reform in the public and madrassa education systems.  The State Department also implements programs to support the Human Rights Council resolution on combating discrimination and religious intolerance, while protecting the freedoms of religion and expression.  The program assists governments in training local officials on cultural awareness regarding religious minorities and on enforcing non-discrimination laws.  The training, shaped by the needs of the host country, includes topics such as legislative reform; best practice models; prosecuting violent crimes motivated by religious hatred; metrics; and discrimination in employment, housing and other areas.

Case-specific Responses

U.S. officials press foreign governments at all levels to advance religious freedom, including through advocacy on specific cases, such as the case of Saeed Abedini – an Iranian-American pastor imprisoned in Iran – and Rimsha Masih – a Christian child accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.

Religious Leader and Faith Community Engagement

Given the critical role of religious actors in their communities, the United States has developed a strategy that encourages U.S. government officials to develop and deepen their relationships with religious leaders and faith communities as they carry out their foreign policy responsibilities.  Specifically, the strategy seeks to advance the following objectives through more robust engagement with religious leaders and faith communities, as part of a broader effort to reach out to a diverse set of civil society actors:  promote sustainable development and more effective humanitarian assistance; advance pluralism and human rights, including the protection of religious freedom; and prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict and contribute to local and regional stability and security.

Related Links:

President Obama’s Leadership Part 1 – LGBT Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 2 – Women’s Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 3 – National Security and Human Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 4 – Civil Society, Open Government, Internet Freedom

President Obama’s Leadership Part 5 – Human Trafficking

President Obama’s Leadership Part 6 – Mass Atrocities

President Obama’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 5 of 8)

human rights issues asiaAfter finishing four parts in this series (links are below), and present the 5th part here, I’ve finally determined that there will be a total of eight parts in this series. Only three more to go, as today’s post discusses the Obama administration’s leadership on human trafficking.

The administration hasn’t done much on the issue, and it would be tough to take action within the next two years among the other issues to be addressed, but it’s great that human trafficking is mentioned as a human rights issue that needs to be addressed. Human trafficking is a gross human rights violation that doesn’t get enough attention, and although it’s associated with many other countries around the world, this problem is also happening here in the United States. A big part of the issue is changing some of the laws, as in some states, trafficking victims are treated like criminals instead of victims. For example, if they are forced into prostitution, then they are more likely to be treated as a criminal for selling sex, instead of as a victim for being a sex slave.

Combating Human Trafficking

Following President Obama’s call to action at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012, and continuing with the first-ever White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking in April 2013, a report and recommendations to the President by his Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and a further set of commitments announced this past September, the Administration has been working across the Federal government and with partners in Congress, local, state, and foreign governments and civil society to deliver on an ambitious agenda to combat modern-day slavery, which afflicts far too many communities, both here at home and around the globe.

Improving Victim Services and Building Effective Law Enforcement:

Identifying and serving victims and ensuring effective law enforcement are core elements of our efforts to promote successful anti-trafficking strategies, both at home and abroad.   To better coordinate and strengthen services for victims of human trafficking in the United States, the Administration is developing the first-ever comprehensive federal strategic action plan, which details a series of coordinated actions to strengthen the reach and effectiveness of services provided to victims of human trafficking.  In addition to numerous law enforcement initiatives at federal, state, and local levels, federal agencies have also recently launched a pilot project with ten embassies around the world to increase the flow of actionable trafficking-related law enforcement information from host countries to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the United States, which will be used to identify victims and human traffickers both in the United States and around the globe.

Shining a Light on Government Responses to Trafficking Around the World

The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) each year sheds light on the global dimensions of the human trafficking problem, including child soldiering, sex trafficking, and forced labor, and on the anti-trafficking efforts of over 180 governments, including the United States.  The honest assessments provided in the TIP Report have proven to be one of our strongest tools to encourage foreign governments to take responsibility for the trafficking occurring within and across their borders and to help target our anti-trafficking foreign assistance. In addition to the information highlighted in the TIP Report, we also engage bilaterally at the highest levels of government on this issue, make targeted use of sanctions, and support foreign governments and stakeholders on a broad array of anti-trafficking initiatives.

Strengthening Protections in Federal Contracting

In September 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order 13627 to strengthen our country’s existing zero-tolerance policy on human trafficking in government contracting, outlining prohibitions on trafficking-related activities that will apply to federal contractors and subcontractors, and providing federal agencies with additional tools to foster compliance.  This past September, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council issued a proposed rule to implement this Executive Order and the Ending Trafficking in Government Contracting provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013.  The Department of Defense has also published a proposed regulatory supplement with additional steps that the Department will take to further prevent trafficking in its own supply chain.

Leveraging Technology

The Administration has been working with partners in civil society and the private sector to find new ways to harness the power of technology to more effectively combat human trafficking.  As one of many such examples, after being brought together by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Council on Women and Girls, leading technology companies have partnered with advocates and survivors to develop new online applications to reach trafficking victims online and on their phones and link them with services in their community.  The National Human Trafficking Resource Center – which, since its launch, has received nearly 90,000 calls and identified close to 12,000 victims – is now operating on a new mobile texting platform to more effectively connect with under-reached victim populations.

Related Links:

President Obama’s Leadership Part 1 – LGBT Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 2 – Women’s Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 3 – National Security and Human Rights

President Obama’s Leadership Part 4 – Civil Society, Open Government, Internet Freedom

President Obama’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 4)

human rights issuesToday’s post in our ongoing series covering the Obama administration and their leadership on international human rights specifically looks at civil society, open government and Internet freedoms. It can be argued that the Obama administration has shown more leadership for these specific rights abroad than at home, since Edward Snowden isn’t going to get any support for his work for an open government and that were unsure of what steps will be taken regarding the NSA’s spying of Americans. But, below is an overview of what’s been done so far. It will be interesting to see what can be accomplished in the final two years of the Obama presidency.

Supporting and Defending Civil Society

Stand with Civil Society Agenda

In late September, President Obama initiated an intensive, multilateral effort to support and defend civil society from increasing restrictions and enable civil society organizations (CSOs) to contribute to the economic, social, and political development of their countries.  Working through existing institutions and initiatives including the United Nations, the Open Government Partnership, the Community of Democracies, and Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development, the United States will collaborate with other governments, civil society, the philanthropy community, the private sector, and multilateral organizations to: (1) promote laws, policies, and practices that foster a supportive environment for civil society in accordance with international norms; (2) coordinate multilateral, diplomatic pressure to roll back restrictions being imposed on civil society; and (3) identify new and innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to civil society.

Real Help in Real Time for Threatened CSOs

The United States is partnering with 18 other governments and foundations through the Lifeline: Embattled CSOs Assistance Fund to offer emergency financial assistance when civic groups are threatened.  Since its founding in 2011, Lifeline has assisted 255 civil society organizations in 69 countries to increase their safety.

Investing in the Next Generation of Leaders

In 2013 alone, the United States invested $500 million to strengthen the work of CSOs across development sectors, with a particular focus on developing the next generation of civil society leaders.  Through the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative and recently-launched Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, the United States is enhancing the capacity, leadership skills, and connections between young leaders committed to building strong democratic institutions and working with government to address common challenges.

Open Government Partnership

The United States is a founding member of the Open Government Partnership  (OGP), a global effort to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, harness new technologies, and transform the way governments serve and engage with their citizens.  In just over 24 months, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) has grown from eight to over 60 countries, which have embraced the key principles of open government – promoting transparency, fighting corruption, and energizing civic engagement through new technologies and approaches to strengthen the democratic foundations of our own countries.  The United States has worked both domestically and internationally to ensure global support for Open Government principles.  We have made important progress to improve the ability of citizens to obtain access to government records, released government data that fuels entrepreneurship and innovation, and increased government spending transparency.

Internet Freedom

With over 120 million in Internet freedom grants since 2008, the United States has made Internet freedom a central program and foreign policy priority.  Programs focus on supporting the development of technology tools to assist activists in highly repressive environments; advocacy programs; training and rapid response to keep activists from harm or advocate for them if in danger; and applied research to help develop strategic responses to Internet repression.  The United States helped to organize the Freedom Online Coalition, a cross-regional group of 21 governments that collaborate on Internet freedom. The U.S. and the Freedom Online Coalition worked to pass, by unanimous consensus, a landmark 2012 resolution in the U.N. Human Rights Council affirming that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.  The United States has also continued to support a free and open Internet and the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance, where all interested parties — industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments — participate on an equal footing.

Related Links:

Obama on Human Rights Part 1 – Advancing LGBT Rights

Obama on Human Rights Part 2 – Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women

Obama on Human Rights Part 3 – National Security and Human Rights

Obama Administration’s Leadership on International Human Rights (Part 3)

armed drones and lethal force

Source: The Guardian

“Advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to our foreign policy.  It is what our history and our values demand, but it’s also profoundly in our interests.  That is why the United States remains firmly committed to promoting freedom, opportunity and prosperity everywhere.  We stand proudly for the rights of women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities.  We defend the freedom for all people to worship as they choose, and we champion open government and civil society, freedom of assembly and a free press.” – Ambassador Susan E. Rice, December 4, 2013

Ambassador Rice outlines great concepts and values. The US has made excellent progress with the LGBT community and with women’s rights, but hasn’t done so well with national security and human rights. The third part in these series focuses on those issues, and the Obama administration has a lot more leading that it needs to do with this aspect of human rights. Guantanamo Bay is still open, with Shaker Aamer still held indefinitely, and with a continuing hunger strike. It may take time to close it, but more can be done to improve conditions and to get people like Shaker Aamer out of there.

Although the administration phrases it as “standards for taking legal action,” it’s really a euphemism for unmanned drones and lethal force. Even though the proper officials may be briefed on every single strike, there isn’t any explanation or investigation into drone strikes gone awry, such as the one that killed Mamana Bibi. President Obama is the only president with a hit list and people should not be killed without trial or due process. We’ll let you read the rest below to understand what the administration has to say.

National Security and Human Rights

Closing Guantanamo

President Obama remains determined to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and erase this blemish on our international credibility.  At the President’s direction, the Departments of State and Defense have brought on new envoys dedicated to this cause, and in August we completed the first successful detainee transfers that were certified under the restrictions that Congress began enacting in 2011.  We are committed to transferring as many detainees as possible under these restrictive provisions, consistent with our security and humane treatment standards, and we expect to be able to announce other transfers in the near future.  We have also begun the periodic review process to carefully evaluate whether the continued detention of certain detainees remains necessary.  As we continue to press to responsibly reduce the detainee population at Guantanamo and ultimately close the facility, we have urged to remove the unnecessary, onerous restrictions that have hampered our efforts to do so.

Standards for Taking Lethal Action

Earlier this year, during his comprehensive address at the National Defense University, President Obama announced that he had approved written policy standards and procedures  that formalize and strengthen the Administration’s rigorous process for reviewing and approving operations to capture or employ lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and outside areas of active hostilities.  In that speech the President explained that, beyond the Afghan war theater, the United States only takes strikes against terrorists who pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to the American people, where capture is not feasible, and where there is near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.  Congress is briefed on every strike taken as part of these operations, and we are committed to sharing as much information about these activities as possible with the American people and the international community, consistent with our national security needs.  Over time, continued progress against al Qa’ida and associated terrorist groups should reduce the need for such actions.

Intelligence Gathering

In August, President Obama directed a review of the scope of our surveillance capabilities.  Intelligence saves lives—American lives and those of our partners and allies.  While we are committed to continuing to collect such information to meet our critical security needs, we remain mindful of the unprecedented power that technology affords us, and give full consideration to the values of privacy, government transparency, and accountability that we strongly support.