A young girl with her first newborn, sitting on her grandmother’s bed. Photograph by Paolo Patruno
“In Malawi, there are two words for pregnancy: pakati and matenda – respectively, ‘in between life and death’ and ‘sick,’” said the Italian photographer Paolo Patruno, author of ‘Birth is a Dream.’ “A birth doesn’t just symbolize the new life that’s coming. It’s not the most normal thing in the world… as it is for so many of us.”
Every two minutes, a woman somewhere around the world dies from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. In the same two minutes, almost 30 young children die of some easily preventable disease – that’s just under 7 million a year dying before the age of five. It often takes us less than two minutes, however, to lose interest in these words and figures.
“Women give birth every day, it’s true. But I don’t see why documenting this issue shouldn’t be a priority somewhere like Africa,” said Patruno.
According to the World Health Organization’s ‘2012 Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Report’ (PMNCHR,) over 95 percent of maternal and young child deaths take place in the world’s “highest-burden” developing countries. Despite the significant progress made since the reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates was made a priority in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals’ agenda, the road towards significant results is still long and tortuous for many countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. But many people still don’t know the causes of maternal, newborn and child health issues, and the challenges that lie ahead.
That’s why the work of photographers like Patruno, Yanina Manolova and Jessica Scranton (who have all documented maternal, newborn and child health-related issues and are featured below,) among others, is so important: it reminds us of the faces behind those otherwise empty numbers, and it calls out to not only our empathy but our intelligence – forcing us to stop hiding conveniently behind the excuse of an information overload and, hopefully, to care.