In May, the world celebrated Mother’s Day and the theme was “ maternal mortality” due to the shocking rate of death of mothers or expectant mothers recorded. Although the number of women dying during pregnancy is globally recorded, death immediately following child birth or a few days after birth has gone down by 35% since 1980. The fact that a large number of women are still dying especially in Africa due to a number of causes is saddening. With Sierra Leone being ranked by the United Nations as the worst place in the world for a child to be born, 159 out of 1000 children die before they reach age five.
It is also shocking that in some developing countries like Egypt and Ecuador, the number of maternal death is decreasing while in developed countries like the United States, Canada and Norway, the death rate is going up. According to a survey published in the Lancent Medical Journal, the researchers estimated that a number of 342,900 maternal deaths occur worldwide which indicates that a lot has to be done.
The HIV/Aids epidemic has greatly contributed to maternal mortality in Eastern and Southern Africa. According to the researchers, they indicated that nearly 1 out of every 5 maternal deaths were associated with the HIV infection. Abortion was also pointed out as another driving force behind maternal death. According to Phillip Danny, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist from the United States, in his presentation titled “Abortion Essential Component of Women’s Health” given at the first international congress on women’s health and unsafe abortion in Bangkok, he says that 54% of all maternal deaths in Africa are due to unsafe abortion due to the lack of access to modern family planning methods. According to the United Nations about 200 million couples in the less developed world need family planning methods but have limited access to them.
In a report by Reuter, it was recorded that about 80% of all deaths in pregnant women and new mothers occured in 21 countries, with half of the deaths occuring in Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is quite surprising that with the advances in medical techinology, women are still dying from various causes both in developed and underdeveloped countries primarily due to the the inability to access reproductive healthcare especially in Africa where women have to walk miles to access health centers and at times the available health workers do not have sufficient, professional skills to handle the vulnerable women.
Several strategies could be adopted to minimize the problem. Health care centers should be established near the women who are in need of them the most, medicine and other health services should be available at affordable prices, or it would be even better if they can be accessed freely. Health workers’ wages should be fair and received at the right time to avoid catastrophes like strikes. Blood banks should be well equipped to properly store the available blood to keep it from going bad. This will eliminate the number of women dying due to the lack of blood. Society has to be informed about maternal mortality and the ways it can be eliminated. Family planning methods should be available and in the words of a Thai women activitist for reproductive rights, Mr. Allan Rosenfield, “women are not dying from diseases that we cannot treat, but they are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving”.
Contributor Joy Segawa