Last Thursday in Chicago, my friend Danielle gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Sam via an emergency C-section six weeks before her due date, safely concluding a high-risk pregnancy that had involved several hospital stays. Roughly 800 other expectant mothers around the world died in childbirth that day, many without the presence of a skilled birth attendant. The majority of these maternal deaths occurred in developing countries, and most could have been prevented with access to basic health services including prenatal care, skilled childbirth attendance, and family planning.
Two days before Sam was born, many of the roughly 70,000 women giving birth in India that sweltering Tuesday were plunged into darkness as countless homes, health centers, and hospitals in India lost power completely or were forced to operate on backup generators when the country suffered the worst blackout in its history. More than half of India’s population—600 million people—were affected. The Washington Post noted that this blackout was the largest in global history, leaving nearly 1 in 10 people in the world without power. In India and other countries around the world, as population growth outpaces the development of infrastructure, situations like this will become increasingly commonplace.
A young woman and child search for drinking water across Machal Lake in India.
© 2009 Kailash Mittal, Courtesy of Photoshare
Meanwhile in the U.S., where population growth is leveling off, officials have declared more than half of all U.S. counties disaster areas this summer due to the extreme drought, which has ravaged the country’s agriculture and will likely send food prices soaring. The hardships inflicted by this drought seem minor compared to last year’s drought in East Africa, which caused a severe food crisis in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya; threatened the livelihoods of almost 10 million people; heightened the already crushing refugee crisis in Kenya; and led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, many of them infants and children suffering from extreme malnutrition. Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID, attributed the severity of the crisis to global warming. A newly published statistical analysis by NASA scientist James Hansen also attributes the 2012 U.S. drought and several other recent droughts around the world to global warming, a result of ever-increasing greenhouse gas emissions.