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Healthy pregnancies: Protecting the rights of both women and children
Of the many causes of disease, disability and death among children, none cuts a wider swath with more long-range consequences yet is more easily preventable than maternal ill health during pregnancy. This toll is not only unforgivable, it is also unnecessary and can be avoided through interventions that cost a mere $3 per capita per year.
Ensuring that pregnancies are healthy clearly can have a profound impact on women, children and society at large. Expectant mothers require adequate nutrition and good, accessible prenatal, delivery, obstetric and postnatal care, as well as an environment free of pollutants, exhausting labour and extreme stress such as conflict. Investments in maternal nutrition on protein, vitamin A and iron supplementation or fortification yield high returns. Eliminating malnutrition among expectant mothers would reduce disabilities among their infants by almost one third. For at-risk infants, early childhood care programmes can help prevent disabilities.
Girls and young women must have educational opportunities to better provide for their children. Women of all ages need to be screened for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. Fathers must be included in parent education. Communities need clean water and sanitation, and societies need the values and the legislation that create respect and a non-discriminatory climate for women.
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