The Challenge of Maternal Mortality
Maputo – Maternal mortality remains a serious problem in many SADC countries a report released recently in Maputo, Mozambique says.
According to results of a survey made public at the International Conference on Population and Development, there are countries in the region with 1 000 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births.
Presenting the survey results, Olodele Arowolo of the Research Council for the Humanities in South Africa, said: “Maternal mortality remains a problem in many SADC countries and therefore it is necessary to strengthen efforts to reduce the problem through programs and measures.”
The scale of the problem varies from country to country. In countries where advances are being registered, the rate of improvement is either too slow or unsustainable.
In Mauritius, for example, maternal mortality decreased from 19.8 to 12 per 1 000 live births between 1990 and 2010. In the Seychelles, the rate fell from 13.8 to 11 per 1 000 births.
Namibia and Botswana are also projected to reduce maternal mortality over the coming year.
In Mozambique, infant mortality declined from 128/1 000 in 2000 to the current 64/1000, while the maternal mortality rate has dropped from about 900 deaths per 100 000 births to 408 over the same period.
While countries are reducing mortality rates, the number of deaths remains intolerably high.
Arowolo advocated implementation of targeted measures to change the current scenario.
“In many countries they do not need new programmes, but only the implementation of existing programs,” he said.
According to him, this situation is due to the fact that, although there are health facilities in most countries, their use by women is still low. Further, women still have little decision-making power over their own bodies and often their husbands/partners have the final say on their health when they are pregnant.
Men often decide when and where women access health facilities during pregnancy.
“There are also problems of transport to reach these units, particularly in countries where the population and health facilities are dispersed, to the point of walking considerable distances to reach these units,” said Arowolo.
The delay in the provision of health care, coupled with tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS, poverty, poor use of modern methods of family planning, gender-based violence and discrimination result in high maternal mortality rates.