THE BLOG

World Cup Reaches Fever Pitch, but There is Another Goal Worth Fighting For

09/07/2014 12:26 BST | Updated 08/09/2014 10:59 BST

World Cup fever. Everyone's been gripped. The anticipation, victorious highs and even the commiserating lows. The World Cup has that unique ability to bring people and countries together behind a common cause.

There will be nearly 77,000 people watching the final at Estadio Nacional in Brazil on Sunday. You can imagine the packed stadium and the endless sea of faces.

But as the world waits with baited breath, I've found myself distracted by another number. A number that I find harder to picture: 289,000; the number of women who died from pregnancy or childbirth last year. That's nearly four times the number of people we'll see in the crowds this Sunday.

Giving birth is a beautiful thing, miraculous even, but things can go wrong and sadly in countries like mine, too many women are still dying unnecessarily in this rite of passage.

One of the simplest ways to save these women's lives is to give them the opportunity to use contraception so they can give their bodies time to recover between births; save for the healthcare costs they'll need to see them through to a safe delivery; or even avoid a pregnancy all together.

But for more than 220 million women around the world that is simply not an option, because even though they want to use it, they are unable to access contraception.

It's not just complications from the childbirth or pregnancy that is causing these women's deaths. Unsafe abortion a very real problem too. In Ghana where I am from, everyone knows a family member, a friend, or a friend of a friend who's died as a result of an unsafe abortion.

The stories are so brutally desperate they turn my stomach. Sticks, wire hangers, even glass forced inside a woman; herbal concoctions and poisons drunk; I've even known of women asking their friends to punch them over and over to end the pregnancy. It's heart-breaking.

But what's worse is the fact that it needn't be this way. Change is possible if we get behind this cause.

This Friday, 11 July, is World Population Day which was established by the UN to raise awareness of global population issues.

So here it is: break down the barriers blocking women and girls from using contraception and we'll put an end to this needless loss of life, and make unsafe abortion a thing of the past.

The UN's consultation on the goals that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) next year has just one more round of amends before it is ready for debate. Worryingly, sexual and reproductive rights are unlikely to make the final draft.

But there is still time for our world leaders to address these issues.

A global campaign to Make Women Matter is calling for universal access to contraception to improve the lives of women and put an end to preventable maternal deaths. Sign the petition today and let's make this goal a reality.