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Maternal and Child Health

    July 13, 2017
      By Rachel Borrell, Amnesty International’s research and campaigns assistant for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories  
    July 22, 2015
    If you’re a girl in Burkina Faso, chances are your childhood won’t last long. Forced early marriage is common, as is early pregnancy.

    If you’re a woman, you may be denied contraception, simply because you don’t have your husband’s permission. And if you do manage to get contraception, you may be forced to use it in secret for fear of being accused of adultery by your partner or in-laws.

    If you’re a rape survivor, pregnant as a result of that assault, you must pay for your own emergency medical care – something that is out of reach for most victims.

    It’s an unsustainable situation. Burkina Faso’s girls want their childhoods back. Their mothers, aunts and sisters are fed up of being side-lined from the decisions that affect their lives. Stand with them today.

    May 27, 2015

    To mark the International Day of Action for Women’s Health on May 28, Paul Hunt, former UN expert on the right to health, tells us about one special girl who inspired his work.

    About a decade ago, I travelled to the north of Uganda, still a conflict-zone at that time. Accompanied by soldiers, we went off the beaten track to a sprawling, dusty camp for internally displaced people (IDP).

    There I met someone who symbolized the deep injustice that arises when health-rights are denied. About 14 years old, she was sitting outside her small hut where she lived with her family. Some of her limbs were huge and sharply disproportionate to the rest of her body. She was suffering from a severely disfiguring disease called lymphatic filariasis – commonly known as elephantiasis.

    She explained that she went to school but was mocked and bullied. She could not stand the abuse so she left school. This teenage girl was the victim of multiple human rights abuses: of the rights to health, education, and equality.

    March 10, 2015

    Women in Iran could face significant restrictions on their use of contraceptives and be further excluded from the labour market unless they have had a child, if two proposed laws are approved, says a new report by Amnesty International published today.

    February 17, 2015
    Launcy of Amnesty campaign stop maternal mortality in Sierra leone, September 2009.

    By Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty’s West Africa Researcher.

    Ebola has affected every area of life in Sierra Leone, and made it even more challenging for pregnant women to get the care they desperately need. Activist Fatou Wurie talks about her personal experiences of maternal health care there. 

    I want to tell you about a young girl I met two years ago. I walked into a community health centre expecting to meet 50 traditional birth attendants for a training seminar. Instead, I walked into a labour ward and saw a placenta discarded on the floor. A young mother was bleeding and in tears, and her new-born baby boy was fighting against the odds to live.

    The midwives in their neon pink uniforms asked me to help clean the mother up while they resuscitated the baby. I didn’t ask questions, but mechanically helped the mother clean up and calm down. The new-born was still not breathing, his airway was blocked and the small health centre did not have the equipment they needed to save his life.

    January 15, 2015

    Authorities in El Salvador must end their ruthless campaign against women’s rights and immediately release a woman imprisoned after losing her pregnancy in 2007, Amnesty International said today ahead of a key Parliamentary vote on her case.

    The country’s Parliament is set to vote this Friday on issuing the first pardon in the cases of 17 women imprisoned for pregnancy related issues.

    Guadalupe, who was 18 years old when she was jailed and has a five-year-old son, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after suffering a miscarriage in 2007. She was accused of having an abortion, which is outlawed in any circumstance in El Salvador.

    “Guadalupe’s harrowing story is just one example of how the authorities in El Salvador go to ridiculous lengths to punish women. She should have never been imprisoned in the first place and must not be made to spend another second behind bars,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    January 09, 2015

    The Irish government’s decision not to include the treatment of women and girls in Magdalene Laundries in the proposed scope of an inquiry announced today into the Mother and Baby Homes is a missed opportunity that will leave gaping holes in the narrative of historical abuses, Amnesty International said.

    The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes is an important step towards redressing past abuses in these institutions. But the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has today confirmed that the government has no further plans to investigate abuses at the Magdalene Laundries, which it asserts were comprehensively covered in the 2013 report of a government Inter-Departmental Committee (the McAleese Report).

    “The proposed terms of reference for the Commission are a missed opportunity to finally address Ireland's responsibility to provide justice and truth to women and girls placed in Magdalene Laundries. Many of those women and girls came from those Mother and Baby homes,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

    November 10, 2014

    By Dr. Shobana Ananth, Health Network Coordinator and Jacqueline Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner

    The Ebola epidemic is spreading rapidly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and threatens to spread further. Over 13,000 cases have been reported in eight countries this year, and almost 5,000 people have died. Current projections suggest there could be 10,000 cases—and 5,000 deaths—per week by December.

    Health systems in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were already weak from years of armed conflict. They suffer from shortages in funding, staff, a lack of health care workers, and poor infrastructure. And now they are collapsing under the strain of responding to the Ebola virus. Without financial support and increased humanitarian and medical staff, the epidemic will continue to expand and many more lives will be lost.

    June 19, 2014

    The Irish government’s establishment of an independent Commission of Investigation into ‘mother and baby homes’ must result in an effective and comprehensive investigation that is fully compliant with Ireland’s human rights obligations, Amnesty International said today in a letter to Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.

    “Ireland’s obligation to ensure truth, justice and reparations for victims of past human rights abuses must be central to the work of this pending Commission of Investigation,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    “The commission must be mandated to investigate the causes of high infant mortality rates at ‘mother and baby’ homes around the country, as well as other reported concerns including alleged illegal adoption practices, vaccine trials conducted on children without consent, forced labour, and that women were denied adequate medical care.

    “Confronting, acknowledging and dealing with this legacy of past human rights abuses are essential if Ireland is to move forward as a rights-respecting society.”

    June 05, 2014
    Photo: The disturbing "mass grave" allegations must be met with a wider response about state responsibility in cases of systematic child abuse.© Demotix

    Disturbing revelations about an unmarked “mass grave” of up to 800 babies and children found in Tuam, a town in the west of Ireland, must prompt urgent answers from the Irish Government about the wider issue of past child abuse in state-run and sponsored institutions, said Amnesty International today.

    “This shocking case needs immediate attention and answers from the Irish Government. A thorough investigation must be carried out into how these children died and if ill-treatment, neglect or other human rights abuses factored into their deaths. We also need to know why these children were not afforded the respect of a proper and dignified burial,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    April 09, 2014

    By Jackie Hansen, Major Campaigns and Women's Rights Campaigner

    "Our health, our bodies, our rights, our future—in your hands now” is the message that Amnesty International sent to United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon during a handover of 281,102 petition signatures in New York today.

    I like to think that my body and my health are in my own hands, thank you very much. My grandmother and my mother fought hard to make sure that I could grow up in a world where I can receive information about family planning, where getting married is a choice, and where I am in control about making decisions about my sexuality and reproduction.

    But much as I like to think that I am the sole master of my destiny, I have spent enough time in the halls of the United Nations to know better. This week, governments from around the world have come together at the United Nations in New York at the 47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development. Throughout this week they will talk about big global issues like young people’s access to comprehensive sexuality education, and the many ways and forms in which people create families. They will leave New York with agreement on a document that will re-affirm the rights that we have to make decisions about our sexuality and reproduction. And that is no small thing.

    July 11, 2013

    The Chilean State must provide an 11 year old girl who was raped by her stepfather and is now pregnant, with all the psychological and medical support she needs, and make available all the options regarding the pregnancy including safe abortion services, Amnesty International said today.

    Chile is one of just a handful of countries around the world that criminalise abortion in all circumstances.

    This means that girls who are pregnant as a consequence of rape, or where the pregnancy threatens their life or health, are compelled to continue their pregnancies regardless of the risks. The criminalization of abortion constitutes a breach of international human rights law.

    The girl, known as Belen, was repeatedly raped by her 32 year old step-father. She is now 14 weeks pregnant.

    “The Chilean state is responsible to provide her with every support necessary as she contends with the horrendous physical and psychological consequences of being raped and pregnant as a result. Her life, health, hopes and dreams are all in the hands of the authorities,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    June 04, 2013

    No woman should be denied lifesaving medical treatment – including abortion if necessary –, Amnesty International said after the Salvadoran authorities waited for weeks before taking action to save the life of a seriously ill pregnant woman..

    The life of “Beatriz” is no longer at risk after El Salvador’s government on Monday finally administered an early caesarean section to stop her from dying because of complications posed by a non-viable pregnancy and serious illness.

    Beatriz – whose case has galvanized activists around the world – was made to suffer for weeks on end while El Salvador’s courts and officials debated whether to treat her.

    “We wish Beatriz a speedy and full recovery after this harrowing and unnecessarily drawn-out experience,” said Esther Major, Amnesty International’s researcher on El Salvador.

    “At the same time, we want to clearly state that no woman or girl should experience the kind of discrimination and torture Beatriz went through when she was fighting for her life while being denied access to life saving and health preserving abortion services.”

    May 31, 2013


    Swift medical action is desperately needed to save a young woman’s life, Amnesty International said after El Salvador’s Minister of Health suggested an early cesarean section could be performed to preserve her health.

    Beatriz, a 22-year-old seriously ill pregnant woman who is six months into a non-viable pregnancy and has been diagnosed with a number of severe illnesses including lupus and kidney problems, has so far being prevented from having medical treatment that could save her life.

    Doctors have said Beatriz could die if she continues with the pregnancy but haven’t treated her for fear of being prosecuted under the country’s total ban on abortion.

    May 23, 2013

    UPDATE: May 30th, Court denies Beatriz her appeal for access to a therapeutic abortion.

    By Esther Major, Central America researcher at Amnesty International

    Less than a month ago, few people knew who Beatriz was.

    But over the last few days and weeks the horrific plight of this 22-year-old woman in El Salvador has inundated social media networks and travelled across the globe.

    Mother-of-one Beatriz is pregnant and severely ill. She is currently in hospital with lupus and kidney problems. Her health situation is so severe that doctors say she could die if she continues with the pregnancy. The doctors have also diagnosed the foetus as anencephalic (lacking a large part of its brain and skull), which in almost all cases results in the baby’s death before or within a few hours or days of birth.


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