Something difficult to attain: the reduction of maternal mortality in Africa.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

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Authorship: Blain Biset.

Published by: .

Type of document: Article.

Language: Spanish.

Theme: Reproductive health.

Keywords: maternal mortality, reproduction health, African Union (AU) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Countries and Regions: Africa.

Description: Position and analysis article by Blain Biset.

The African Union (AU) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched on May 2009 the campaign for the fast reduction of maternal mortality in Africa with the purpose of expanding the availability of reproductive health services thus allowing the continent to come closet o the fulfillment of the fifth of the eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) dealing on this issue.

Prior to the campaign for the fast reduction of maternal mortality in Africa, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon urged heads of state to establish a commitment with the MDG, in particular with the reduction of maternal mortality in the period included between 1990 and 2015 and to guarantee universal Access to reproductive health.

But although promises have been made, the continent still needs to cover a long path to fulfill that goal. As an average the reduction of maternal mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa was of a 41%.

UNFPA Executive Director, Babatunde Osotimehin, considers that the region attained significant achievements, but he is of the opinion that more high level meetings, as the one held on Sunday the 27th are needed.

"Africa knows what to do and how to do it", he told IPS, "but there are still challenged to face.

The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, , Mustapha Kaloko, is not convinced of the fact that Africa will attain that goal for 2015, but he does believe that the campaign for the fast reduction of maternal mortality in Africa has the capacity for speeding up the reduction of maternal mortality.

"The unique nature of the campaign is that it is not asking for something new ", Kaloko told IPS and he added “We are not developing new plans, but rather improving those already existing ".

He said that most of maternal deaths in Africa could have been prevented with the use of already existing practices and interventions.

A study published in the well known medical journal The Lancet concluded that a woman from Sub-Saharan Africa has almost 100 more possibilities of dying for complications derived from pregnancy and delivery than one living in a rich country.

The article also states that eight of the ten countries with a highest maternal mortality rate are in Africa and that the list is headed by Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Another big challenge, according Osotimehin, is the degree of political commitment by the nations to reduce maternal mortality in the continent.

"It is not about money, but rather it is the commitment. We are here to make sure that no women will die giving birth”, he stressed.

The great majority of maternal deaths, around a 57%, take place in Africa thus being the largest rate in the world.

But development experts and local doctors are not only worried for the maternal mortality, for each death linked to pregnancy and delivery, 20 women suffer complications before, during and after the birth, leaving mother and handicapped babies or long lasting medical problems.

Serious bleedings, infections, high blood pressure and abortions made under unsecure conditions are the most common causes for complications and death, according to UNFPA.

According to Dorothee Kinde Gazard, Health Minister from Benin, figures are exorbitant. "All levels from the society, especially at a community scale, should be involved and committed to ensure that no woman dies or ends up handicapped ", she said.

Benin adopted steps to reduce maternal deaths through the improvement of the recollection data process in clinics and hospitals. “All deaths are registered in such a way that it allows us to know the reason for death and how it could have been prevented", told Gazard to IPS.

The growing use of family planning services was successful in several countries such as Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

Another solution is to reduce maternal mortality by avoiding early marriages, expressed Osotimehin.

"Early marriages create a situation in which girls raise children without been physically or psychologically fit for that” she commented.

In Niger, around two thirds of women get married as adolescents.

Pregnant girls ranging from 10 to 154 year old have five times more probabilities to die during pregnancy than 20-year old ones, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), while those in the age group of 15 to 19 have twice the probabilities.

The campaign for the fast reduction of maternal mortality in Africa is mainly focused in the health of women, but men play an important role in the campaign. Osotimehin expressed that everybody should realize that high maternal mortality rates are not acceptable.

"We must talk to men since they are the ones creating these problems” she said.

Gazard agreed to the concept that male participation is fundamental saying that without their participation we could never reduce maternal mortality.

Benin in order to involve men launched a Project which foster them to accompany their wives to pre-natal controls.

At present, Equatorial Guinea is the only African country among the list of ten that have already attain the fifth millennium development goal.

Outstanding persons such as Michelle Bachelet, executive director of UN Women, are convinced that very few African countries will be able to reduce maternal mortality in a 75% for 2015.

"We should concentrate on increasing efforts, but we should start thinking right now in what will happen after 2015” Bachelet told IPS.

See online : Something difficult to attain: the reduction of maternal mortality in Africa.

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