Invest in women to curb Africa’s worrying maternal deaths
Save the Children’s latest State of the World Mothers report indicates that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the worst place to be a mother this year, replacing Niger.
According to the study, the maternal mortality rate has skyrocketed with women having a one in 30 chance of dying from maternal causes including childbirth.
The London based charity surveyed 176 countries on maternal health, child mortality, education, women’s political status and levels of income.
It also listed the likelihood of death in pregnancy and labour and other challenges women face as mothers.
In the report, sub-Saharan African countries dominated the bottom ten places as Finland and other Nordic nations took the leading positions.
This report also highlighted a wide gap in maternal health between developing and developed world as women and children from the former have higher chances of survival than the latter. This means about three million babies die within the first month of birth while about 287,000 women die from pregnancy or childbirth.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 800 women die daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. And 99 per cent of these occur in developing countries especially among women living in rural communities.
Earlier surveys had indicated that this was due to lack of awareness and access to health care alone. A World Bank Survey last year pointed that poverty is the main trigger of all these. This is because most women in sub-Saharan Africa lack money to pay for medical services, however, headway have been made in northern Africa.
The DRC government has also gotten its share of blame due to its failure to stop corruption that is rife in the country not to mention low investment in the health sector.
A report by the Guardian last year pointed out that hospitals in DRC experience frequent power cuts, shortage of drugs, have out-dated equipment and poorly paid staff. It is ironic that this happens in a country that boasts large deposits of diamond, copper, gold and other minerals.
And DRC is not alone; death of women from complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth is becoming a common story in some developing countries. This is because DRC had companions in the bottom places namely Cote d’ Ivoire, Chad, Nigeria, Gambia, Central Africa Republic, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Niger.
So where do countries’ like DRC and others miss the right steps? Investing in women’s education and awareness is key to reducing such deaths across sub-Saharan ends of the continent.
Educated women are able to make better choices than their less informed counterparts. Education also exposes women to contraceptives. Low use of contraception also featured prominently as a trigger of maternal mortality.
According to the report, these deaths were also caused as some women give birth at a young age before their bodies are mature for childbearing. This is mainly due to lack of awareness since studies have it that young adolescents face higher risk of complications in pregnancy than older women.
Providing quality healthcare services and making it accessible and affordable will greatly reduce this trend. Most women are too poor to raise maternity funds. Therefore it would be a wise move if governments could roll out free services to mothers.
It is now upon the governments in the mentioned countries to invest in healthcare especially maternal health to save babies and mothers from these deaths which could be avoided.
Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and new-born babies and remove the name of Sub-Saharan countries from this embarrassing list once and for all.