Breaking News

Mothers' health is improving across Africa

by Arao Ameny
27 February 2013 | 2032 Views
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks with new mothers at the Maitama General Hospital in Abuja. Photo: UN/Eskinder Debebe

But far too many are still dying from childbirth complications

In recent years, the shrill cries of a newborn baby have been bringing more shouts of joy than of anguish in maternity wards across Africa. That is because maternal deaths are decreasing on the continent, says Gifty Addico, a South Africa-based adviser for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). New figures in a UN report, Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010, show that maternal mortality has declined by 41 per cent in the past 10 years in sub-Saharan Africa.

"More mothers and their babies are staying alive after birth, and this is a very good sign," comments Ms. Addico, as the inflection of her voice rises in excitement. "But we need to do more to make sure that every mother lives to see her child," she told Africa Renewal.

Maternal deaths drop

An awareness campaign called Every Woman, Every Child, initiated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in September 2010, has been supporting efforts to reduce maternal deaths. The campaign aims to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015, as part of the broader drive for the UN Millennium Development Goals.

A similar programme was launched a year earlier. The African-led initiative, called the Campaign for the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), was set up by the African Union in partnership with UNFPA. It lent strong support to existing strategies and plans on the ground, rather than developing new ones.

Within three years of CARMMA's initiation, 37 of the 54 countries in Africa had taken steps to upgrade national maternal health programmes and services. About 30 have made explicit political commitments, such as setting aside funds specifically for maternal health. Rwanda now offers financial incentives to health facilities that are high performers.

CARMMA urged African countries to put together "a roadmap for maternal and new-born health," Dr. Wilfred Ochan, a UNFPA assistant representative, told Africa Renewal. Uganda and Kenya, for instance, focus on training midwives, improving ambulance response times, enhancing community mobilization, reducing the number of still births and increased the use of family planning programmes.

Akinyele Eric Dairo, a senior programme and technical advisor to the UNFPA, toldAfrica Renewal that maternal health has been improving due to "the greater attention that the African Union and its members states" have given to the problem.

Motherless children

But in the midst of such progress, the reality remains that every year more than a million children are left motherless. Globally, one in 30 women still dies from complications of childbirth, and half a million of them die from preventable causes, reports the UNFPA. "This is unacceptable," Ms. Addico emphasizes. "Just unacceptable."

High fees for childbirth services and hospital stays, little or no access to nearby health facilities and shortages of health workers are some of the factors affecting maternal health, explains the World Health Organization (WHO). As a result, complications in childbirth can pose very high risks to maternal and infant health alike.

Ms. Addico cites the poor quality of Africa's health systems. Mothers who make it to a hospital may have to wait long hours to see a doctor. Facilities often do not have adequate resources ' either equipment or staff - to help mothers deliver.

WHO also reports that women, especially young prospective mothers, may not be fully aware of the health risks when they are about to deliver. Young women who became pregnant and gave birth between ages of 15 and 20 are twice as likely to die during childbirth as women in their 20s or older. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth.

"This is something we need to change," insists Dr. Ochan. He believes that working with influential cultural and religious leaders could help solve some of the issues.

Religious barriers have long posed challenges, Ms. Addico agrees. Some health facilities run by religious groups, for example, may not offer family planning options or other alternatives they disagree with.

The East African Community has made an effort to harmonize policies across that region by making sure that women who go to a religious hospital are also seen by an alternative healthcare facility.

Limited health care access for female patients suffering from HIV/AIDS is another obstacle, Ms. Addico points out. "We tend to forget that women with HIV have maternal and reproductive needs because of the [AIDS] stigma. We cannot overlook them."

Need to invest more

Despite significant gains in maternal health, argues Mr. Dairo, there is still "a very urgent need to keep intensifying maternal health interventions." He notes that investments in women's health, especially sexual and reproductive health, can prevent death during delivery.

According to UNFPA, only six countries (Rwanda, Botswana, Niger, Malawi, Zambia and Burkina Faso) have met the target of allocating at least 15 per cent of their annual budget to health, a goal set at an African summit on HIV/AIDS held in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2000.

Moreover, Mr. Dairo adds, many of the countries that reached the 15 per cent goal did so "due to contributions from external donors to the health sector." He proposes that African countries deliberately and consistently set aside money from their own budgets for health care, "especially when it comes caring for women and children."


Source: Africa Renewal


News Updates


Latest News

'Grandfather caught on camera begging teen granddaughter for sex'

by Melody Baya | 25 November 2015 | 830 Views

Cyanide poisoning - Eight men arrested - Eight men from Hwange and Ts...

by Staff Reporter | 25 November 2015 | 427 Views

Junior school bus crashes on trip to Kariba - Photo - This happened th...

by Staff Reporter | 25 November 2015 | 697 Views

Living in Mugabe's Zimbabwe

by Vince Musewe | 25 November 2015 | 691 Views

'Zanu-PF neglecting War vets' - Some veterans of Zimbabwe's war of lib...

by Thomas Chiripasi | 24 November 2015 | 1018 Views

Mujuru never attempted to assassinate Mugabe - Former Vice President J...

by Gibbs Dube | 24 November 2015 | 1455 Views

45% of Cowdray Park children out of school

by Staff Reporter | 24 November 2015 | 889 Views

Prophets, Carl Ncube clash over 'distasteful joke' - COMEDIAN Carl Jos...

by Bongani Ndlovu | 24 November 2015 | 2045 Views

Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe gives Festive Season warning agains...

by Stephen Jakes | 24 November 2015 | 540 Views

Gunmen rob SA soccer star - A South African soccer star narrowly avoid...

by Stephen Jakes | 24 November 2015 | 3459 Views

Are we now 100% certain that King Lobengula 'died'? - Part 2

by Mthokozisi Ndiweni | 24 November 2015 | 1764 Views

Gura Ra Mwari congratulates Obedingwa Mguni - Guta Ra Mwari has sent a...

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 2593 Views

Telecel experiences network disturbances

by Thobekile Zhou | 24 November 2015 | 1138 Views

Its Bosso vs Dembare - Easy Call Cup semis

by Thobekile Zhou | 24 November 2015 | 2605 Views

List of Jacob Zuma's 22 children

by parent24 | 24 November 2015 | 7168 Views


by Khumbulani Maphosa | 24 November 2015 | 1174 Views

Dad rapes 2 year old daughter on the sofa - A 60 YEAR old man from Chi...

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 2533 Views

Mugabe's apologist Vimbai Chivaura dies - Zanu-PF apologist and Univer...

by Thobekile Zhou | 24 November 2015 | 4513 Views

Traffic police leading on corruption

by Suitable Kajau | 24 November 2015 | 2396 Views

MDC Statement on civil service overhaul - The recently approved civil ...

by Kurauone Chihwayi | 24 November 2015 | 2252 Views

Mental patient raped in hospital toilet - A 32 year old general hand a...

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 1932 Views

Chaos in church as women stamped for 'anointed condoms'

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 6711 Views

Turkey shoots down Russian military jet - Turkey has shot down a milit...

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 3054 Views

Chiyangwa ordered to pay back $4 million loan

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 2655 Views

Bond coins gain popularity as Rand weakens

by Dana Sanchez I AFKInsider newsletter | 24 November 2015 | 2071 Views

Econet shuts down, auctions subsidiary

by Oliver Kazunga | 24 November 2015 | 4131 Views

'Promiscuous man abandons wife, daughter after HIV infection'

by Noleen Makhurane | 24 November 2015 | 3230 Views

Cops demand a $3 'daily passage fee' from every kombi

by Auxilia Katongomara | 24 November 2015 | 3139 Views

Man axed in fight over $1

by Patient Sibanda | 24 November 2015 | 1854 Views


WATCH: Late Night show's analysis of Zanu-PF factional battles - LATE ...

by Staff reporter | 24 November 2015 | 1707 Views

Pregnancy won't stop me from flying, says Sandra Ndebele

by Bongani Ndlovu | 24 November 2015 | 2579 Views

Frustrated Hosiah Chipanga dumps Zimbabwe

by Staff Reporter | 24 November 2015 | 3547 Views

Miss Rural Goromonzi Crowned - It was a day to remember for the Goromo...

by Stephen Jakes | 24 November 2015 | 911 Views

Heavily pregnant Sandy delays flight for an hour

by Staff reporter | 23 November 2015 | 6684 Views

Eutelsat to speed up Zimbabwe digitisation

by Staff reporter | 23 November 2015 | 1182 Views

P.O Box comedy collapses

by Staff reporter | 22 November 2015 | 2997 Views

Madlela back with a bang

by Vusmann | 22 November 2015 | 2257 Views