|HDD-(PHN)FLASH, newsletter on Population, Health and Nutrition of the Worldbank Human Development Department (WB)|
|PHNFLASH 2 December 6, 1993|
A woman's ill health or death affects not only her own opportunities and potential but those of her children. A mother's death in childbirth is a virtual death knell for her newborn, and it often has severe consequences for her other young children. At least 60 percent of women who die from pregnancy-related complications are already mothers, and a study in Bangladesh found that when a mother died, the chances that her children up to the age of 10 would die were sharply increased-by more than three times for her girl children.
Women's poor health also affects the welfare and productivity of their households and communities. Ironically, the poorer the family, the greater its dependence on women's economic contribution. Women are the sole breadwinners in some 30 percent of the world's households, and at least 25 percent of other households depend on female earnings for more than 50 percent of total income.
Women also play a critical role in their national economies, and their physical well-being determines their ability to be productive. Data on women's contribution to development, while still tentative, indicate that women are responsible for up to three-quarters of the food and cash crops produced annually in the developing world. In Africa, women produce 80 percent of the food consumed domestically and at least 50 percent of export crops. Women also constitute one-third of the world's wage labor force and one-fourth of the industrial labor force. However, women's wages for the same or similar work are substantially lower than men's. In parts of Asia and Africa, women earn 50 percent less than men. Women work longer hours than men in every country except Australia, Canada and the United States. Therefore, female ill health has a substantial impact on productivity and economic development.
Ill health impedes women's ability to work and earn money, and burdens them and the economy with increased health care costs. Investments in women's health programs not only improve a woman's health status and the survival and health of her family, such investments increase the labor supply, productive capacity and economic well-being of communities.