The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150,

Amnesty International Activates Maternal Death Clock in NYC's Times Square Sending Powerful Message to United Nations to Reduce Deaths in Childbirth As Poverty Summit Opens

Digital Billboard Clock Will Count One Death Per 90 Seconds and Tally Nearly One Thousand Dead Every Day During the Three-Day Summit


Amnesty International activated
a "maternal death clock" in Times Square Monday to send a powerful
message about the tragic price of poverty worldwide -- one woman dying
in childbirth every 90 seconds or 981 women a day -- as world leaders gathered
at the United Nations for the start of a progress review on reducing poverty.

As activists pointed silently upward, the
clock on a digital billboard above Times Square launched at 9 a.m. EDT.
The clock will run during the course of the three-day U.N. Summit on the
Millennium Development Goals and will count a death each 90 seconds and
tally them online at

The latest United Nations estimates show 358,000
women died in childbirth during 2008 -- about 1,000 women every day.

Some women die in their homes, unattended
by anyone with medical skills. Some die while to trying to get to hospitals,
on foot, in cars, in motorbikes. Some die in hospital beds, having
reached the hospital too late to get the treatment they needed. Still
others arrive at the hospital to find it lacking the trained personnel
or supplies they need. The tragedy occurs worldwide, including in the United
States, where two to three women die in childbirth every day. About
half of these deaths could be prevented in the United States if maternal
health care were available, accessible and of good quality for all women,
according to Amnesty International's report, "Deadly Delivery."

The latest U.N. statistics place the United
States 50th, behind 49 other countries in terms of the rate
of maternal deaths, showing the United States slipping even lower than
previous estimates. Countries like Bulgaria, South Korea and Kuwait
are ranked ahead of the United States, according to the new U.N. estimates.

Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International
USA, said: "The clock is ticking for women around the world. While
world leaders meet to talk about reducing poverty, women are dying. We
are here to tell world leaders that they must take urgent steps to reverse
this terrible tragedy worldwide. No woman should die while giving
birth, when most deaths are preventable. Governments need to do much more
to make certain that the most disadvantaged and poorest women have equal
and timely access to life saving care."

Amnesty International Secretary General Salil
Shetty said: "The maternal death clock is a stark reminder to world leaders
coming to N.Y. for the MDG summit of the scandal that is maternal mortality.
It is time for governments to deliver on their promises and ensure
the human rights of the world's poorest are upheld."

Shetty, an expert on poverty and human
rights, is leading Amnesty International's delegation to the U.N.
summit on poverty.

The clock launched as about 140 world leaders
assembled six blocks away for the start of the summit. The leaders
are reviewing the progress they pledged in 2000 to reduce poverty, disease,
ignorance and inequality -- all by 2015.

Activists wearing bright yellow "Every
90 Seconds A Woman Dies Giving Birth" T-shirts circulated on Broadway,
inviting passersby to sign a petition to be presented to world leaders
at the United Nations. The petition can be signed online at the Amnesty
International USA website:

From Promises to Delivery

Amnesty International's report From Promises to Delivery outlines
crucial steps governments can take to deliver meaningful progress on the
MDGs over the next five years. The report says that despite the fact that
most deaths in pregnancy and childbirth are preventable, the MDG target
to improve maternal health and prevent deaths failed to address the root
causes of why women are dying. These causes include early marriage,
denial of sexual and reproductive rights and services to women, as well
as discrimination.

Maternal Deaths in the United States

Barriers to care reflect disparities among
different racial and ethnic groups and affect maternal health in developed,
as well as developing countries. In the United States, according to Amnesty
International's March report, Deadly Delivery, more than two women
die every day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Approximately
half of these deaths could be prevented if maternal health care were available,
accessible and of good quality for all women without discrimination in
the United States.

To request a copy of these reports please

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

(212) 807-8400