The Loudest Voice in the Room

It's not every day you attend a meeting like we did at the UN Foundation in New York last Thursday. It's not every day you see world-renowned surgeons, major corporate activists, UN officials, and foreign diplomats gathered together to talk about essential surgery. When you do, there are always a lot of good ideas discussed, and we leave with a higher degree of hope, and excitement about solutions to bring essential surgery to the world.


But we've seen those type of meetings before. On February 6th, we saw a first. For the first time, an official representative from a country - Tanzania to be exact - attended, listened and offered a formal statement from her country. Ms. Ellen Maduhu, from the Permanent Mission to the UN for Tanzania, delivered a prepared statement about essential surgery, and how lack of access to it is affecting her nation.

“In Tanzania every year 454 women die from pregnancy related complications for every 100,000 live births. Most maternal deaths occur during childbirth and in the immediate postpartum. Statistics on maternal mortality identify bleeding, unsafe abortion, pregnancy-induced hypertension, obstructed labour, and infections as the common direct causes of death…

 Majority of deaths can be prevented, if pregnant women can be assured of access to skilled attendance at childbirth and emergency obstetric care when pregnancy-related complications occur.


 The Government of Tanzania is committed to end preventable maternal and child mortality in all segments of our society, to ensure that women get access to health services and do not die from pregnancy complications, the Government has continued to expand coverage of Primary Health Facilities and strengthen provision of comprehensive and basic Emergency Obstetric and Newborn care equipment nationwide."

Ms. Maduhu spoke with passion. She brought with her a recommendation from the Tanzanian Government that essential surgery be included as a sustainable development goal in the post-2015 agenda within the framework of universal healthcare.

And that's when it hit us.

This movement is real. It's happening. This isn't just a group of non-profits, of interested and passionate healthcare providers, of activists and filmmakers. We have the attention of the governments of the world, and after this UN-approved event, we have an official statement from Tanzania, that essential surgery be recognized by the public health sector.

Ms. Maduhu was one of many speakers. We also heard from Anita Sharma,  Senior Director, Millennium Development Goals Initiatives, Every Woman, Every Child, UN Foundation. Maya Azucena, Global Singer, Cultural Ambassador and human rights activist touched on the real, hopeful human element of the issue. Gillian Slinger of the Campaign to End Fistula, United Nations Population Fund was in attendance, and she made the case for completely ending fistula, world-wide. Ray Price, from WHO gave us the Mongolian case-study on how to make essential surgery work, even in places where infrastructure is almost non-existent. All spoke beautifully and with power.

But Ms. Ellen Maduhu, quiet, polite and non-assuming, made the loudest speech of all.

"The prevention of maternal mortality is the basic right of all women and we must make it our priority."

The Right to Heal is not just a film. It's becoming a fact.