This month’s main theme has been put together with the support of UNICEF. It actually emerges out of research and writing that I did last year for the UN agency, which has been doing its utmost in recent months to raise awareness of the unnecessary deaths of mothers and newborn children, especially in Africa and South Asia. I’ve been writing for UNICEF alongside my work for New Internationalist for eight years now, yet this is the first time for more than a decade that there has been such a close collaboration between the two organizations. We hope it will be the first of many.
March marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile from Chinese-occupied Tibet, followed by thousands of his compatriots. Journalist Nick Harvey has visited Tibetans in both India and Nepal and heard about all the frustrations of life in exile – as well as their plans for future resistance. They are probably now wondering if the new US President might conceiv- ably make a difference to their situation.
One of Obama’s first acts following his inauguration was to draw a line under one of the most shameful episodes in recent US history – the living monument to human rights abuse represented by its Guantánamo prison camp. This magazine carries testimony not only from a former prisoner but also from an ex-guard who is just as outspoken about the inhumanity of the penal regime.
Maternal mortality, Tibet, Guantánamo... big issues clearly worthy of notice. But these editor’s letters rarely draw attention to some of our regular features that in their own quiet way tell us just as much about the shape of our world. Maria Golia’s Letter from Cairo, for instance, this month offers a vignette drawn from everyday life that speaks volumes about the knots of culture, race and class in which we all tie ourselves up.
Chris Brazier for the New Internationalist co-operative.
Why are so many women still dying in childbirth? Chris Brazier explains how they could be saved.
Habibu is lying on matting on the mud floor of her hut. The contractions are coming thick and fast now. The pain is intense, but she draws comfort from the memory that, the previous three times, this agony gave way to the peaceful, exhausted bliss of holding her baby in her arms.
Her husband’s mother is on hand to help – she has, after all, given birth many times herself and seen many more children born. Water has been brought from the pump and sits in two large bowls ready to be used – one...
There is a bigger gulf in experience between the Global North and the Global South in maternal death rates than there is on any other human development measure. The average lifetime risk of maternal death in the rich world is 1 in 8,000, compared with 1 in 850 in developing countries and 1 in 450 in least developed countries.