Friday, December 02, 2005

Maternal mortality; where do we stand?

By EDWIN GICHANGI Although motherhood should be a time of expectation and joy for a woman, her family, and her community, the reality of motherhood is often grim to many, especially in developing countries. To most women, motherhood is often marred by unforeseen complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Many die in the prime period of their lives and in great distress due to: obstetric hemorrhage, obstructed labour, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and complications of unsafe abortion.Preventable death and disability among mothers, expectant mothers and their babies is an all-encompassing tragedy faced by families, communities, societies, and children.According to details contained in a report published by WHO, UNICEF and the U.N. Population Fund, the risk for African women of dying in childbirth is 175 times greater than for women in developed regions.The report further shows that women in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia face a high chance of dying during pregnancy or delivery. Of the 529,000 maternal deaths that occurred in 2000, 95 percent were in Africa and Asia. India had the most of any country with 136,000 deaths. Nigeria was second, with 37,000.Lee Jong-wook, WHO Director General says that the assistance of a skilled health worker during pregnancy and delivery and access to emergency medical care in the event of complications could drastically reduce the mortality rate in these regions. "Many women deliver their children alone or with family members or other untrained attendants who lack the skills to deal with complications during delivery…skilled attendants are vital because they can recognize and prevent medical crises and provide or refer for life-saving care when complications arise."According to Lee, non-governmental organizations and health professionals must address the issue of child mortality by developing true leadership, strengthening country capacity and health systems, developing evidence guidelines, and developing and implementing systems on a local and international level to monitor coverage, equity and progress to achieving the Millennium Development Goals relating to child survival. Sources: The writer may be reached at:


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