American midwife Robin Lim won the prestigious CNN Heroes award on Sunday for her efforts in providing at-risk women in Indonesia with free maternal health services.
Lim's tale began after she lost her sister as a result of childbirth-related complications. Following the untimely death of her sister, Lim sold her home in Hawaii and moved to the island of Bali with her husband to start a free prenatal clinic offering services to women from her new home country.
Eventually, Lim’s at-home clinic turned into the Yaysan Bumi Sehat health clinics - clinics that have aided thousands of women and children in Indonesia with birthing services, prenatal care and medical aid.
She has helped so many in the country that people now refer to her Ibu or “Mother.”
“Every baby’s first breath on Earth could be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth could be safe and loving. But our world is not there yet,” Lim said upon receiving her award at the Sunday taping of “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” in Los Angeles, Calif.
Long an overshadowed health concern, maternal health has been gaining more traction in the global dialog on development, health and security.
With the maternal health gaining more attention in recent years, particularly following its inclusion as one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the win for Lim can significantly aid in the spread of knowledge and awareness about the maternal health struggles women face globally.
Maternal health is a vast problem that plagues much of the developing world and even some parts of the developed world, including the United States.
“While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death,” the World Health Organization maintains.
Approximately 1,000 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, adding up to the loss of almost one woman for every minute of every day.
A vast majority, 99 percent, of maternal related deaths occur in developing countries and sub-Saharan Africa is home to a majority of these deaths. South Asia, where Lim uses her expertise to offer free health care to pregnant women, is home to one third of maternal health related deaths.
Poor health care and lack of access to services remain the primary drivers behind maternal health related concerns.
Experts maintain that weak healthcare systems, combined with limited evidence on the magnitude of the problem and a low disease burden, are the primary reasons that progress on the issue remains sluggish.
The countries facing the highest maternal health burden include India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These countries also face staggering levels of poverty and some have witnessed years of instability and violence.
The World Bank argues that improving maternal health has social and economic benefits for entire societies including improving labor supply, improving household income, reducing the number of orphans in a community and overall strengthening the capacity of entire health systems.
Bringing attention to the issue to maternal health is critical to combating the problem, as aid and attention are crucial to ensuring health systems are strengthened across the world and that skilled attendants are available in every delivery room to combat preventable deaths.
“Naturally I hope that being a CNN hero will bring attention to the global need for better maternal and infant survival care,” Lim wrote in a statement.
“Each baby, each adult, deserve a clean, healthy environment. Those are a human right,” Lim has said.
CNN Heroes was established in 2007 and has become an annual television special that honors individuals for their work and contributions aiding people around the globe.
Other honorees from 2011’s awards include Amy Stokes of South Africa, Eddie Canales of Texas, and Bruno Serato of Anaheim, Calif. for their contributions to aiding children with HIV/AIDS, supporting people with life-altering injures, and providing meals for impoverished children in southern California respectively.