Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof boldly travels to the most dangerous corners of the world to report on stories of war crimes and injustices. Through his passionate reporting, he gives a voice to the voiceless and shows us that anyone can make a difference.
Now, Nicholas Kristof and his wife, Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn, are inspiring people like you to help women and children through their book Half the Sky . "In the 19th century, the foremost challenge was slavery," Nicholas says. "Today, we think it is the gender inequity, especially in the developing world."
One of the most dangerous forms of sex discrimination is the lack of proper healthcare for women in developing nations, as evidenced in Nicholas' haunting report about a young mother.
Prudence, a mother of three living in a remote Cameroon village, had few resources available when she went into labor with her fourth child. After three days of agonizing pain, a midwife sat on her stomach in a desperate attempt to force the baby out. Prudence's uterus ruptured.
From the start, the odds were stacked against Prudence—an African woman has a one in 20 chance of dying during pregnancy. After days of suffering, her family found someone to drive her 75 miles to the nearest hospital. She rode on the back of a motorcycle.
Nicholas met Prudence at the hospital two days later. Ignored and untreated, Prudence fought for her life in an empty room as her now-dead fetus rotted inside her swollen body. As she became weaker, Nicholas says it was clear she needed a blood transfusion to save her life. "There were two people with compatible blood types, me and my cameraman," he says. "We rolled up our sleeves."
Prudence wasn't in the clear yet—she needed an emergency Caesarean section to remove the decaying baby now poisoning her body. The doctor refused to operate without $100. "The family had no money whatsoever. So we chipped in ourselves, and it looked like it might actually be about to begin," Nicholas says. But at 10:15 p.m. that night, the doctor vanished. Nurses told Nicholas he had left for the night.
The next morning, Nicholas found Prudence lying in her own vomit, her urine bag overflowing. The doctor had performed the operation, but she slipped into a coma as infection raged through her body. She had been given no antibiotics. "Her case particularly moved me because I was there and my blood was in her veins," Nicholas says. "I thought maybe she would pull through, but her ferocious will to live wasn't enough. Prudence Lemokoumo, rest in peace."
Unfortunately, Prudence's story is a common one. "In World War I, there were more women who died in childbirth than men killed in the war," Sheryl says. "Even now, every minute a woman dies from pregnancy and labor. That's the equivalent of five jumbo jets of women dying every day."
Even more tragic is the fact that the surviving children of mothers who die in childbirth may not live for long. "When a mother dies like that, then children are more likely to die as well," Nicholas says. "It's completely unnecessary that that mother of three died."
Keeping families healthy around the world isn't an impossible mission. In fact, it only costs a few dollars. "In the country of Niger, I saw a case just like Prudence's—only the woman lived. She lived because of a $42 birthing kit that Columbia University provided," he says. "One of the dangers is that we can sometimes focus on all the bad things, and it seems depressing and we tune it out, but there is a lot of progress, a lot of potential to really bring about change."