Thursday, October 18, 2007

Giving birth can be fatal for women in many countries of the world

Pregnancy is not a disease yet it can be a killer for too many women – particularly in third world countries lacking access to basic health care, effective contraception, and safe abortion. According to a report on the BBC, the number of women dying in childbirth varies dramatically worldwide from one in eight in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone to one in 47,000 in Ireland

The impact of these tragedies effect families and communities. If a mother is ill or dies, the baby is less likely to survive and her other children less likely to be healthy and educated

It is a problem that requires investment of resources by those willing to share their wealth with the most impoverished. As Nicholas Kristof puts it, “The world needs a war on maternal mortality, and the U.S. could lead that effort. Yet maternal care rarely gets the priority or attention it deserves. Partly that's because the victims tend to be faceless, illiterate village women who carry little weight in their own families, let alone on the national or world agenda”

This from the BBC:
Around half a million women die annually before, during or shortly after giving birth - and almost all of these deaths occur in developing countries.

Campaigners argue that these deaths are both preventable and have repercussions that echo far beyond the woman's immediate family and community.

"We know exactly what needs to be done to save women's lives," the chief of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Thoraya Obaid told the BBC News website.

And yet, since 1990, the level of maternal mortality has decreased by less than 1% per year, far from enough to reach an internationally agreed goal of a 75% reduction by 2015.

The leading killers during pregnancy or childbirth include massive blood loss, high blood pressure, an unsafe abortion, an untreated infection and obstructed labour - where the woman's body is too small for the baby to pass through the birth canal.

But the reasons why these issues have not been tackled are political, rather than medical.

"The first and most important reason is a social issue: the low status of women. Leaders do not see the lives and health of women as a political priority, they invest in other sectors," Mrs Obaid said.

Women most at risk are often the most marginalised and vulnerable, living in countries with undeveloped health systems or in conflict situations, she added.

Half of all maternal deaths - some 270,000 in 2005 - occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in two women lacks access to a trained midwife.

"The three basic interventions are: family planning to begin with, a qualified birth attendant present at the birth and access to obstetric care if there are complications during birth," she said.

Another obstacle to reducing levels of maternal mortality has, arguably, been the increasing influence of ideology and faith on health policy, particularly in the US.

Since 2002, the US has withheld funding from the UNFPA, accusing it of actively promoting abortion or sterilisation.

"The words 'sexual' and 'reproductive' are seen by one of our major donors - the US - as being a euphemism for backing abortion," Mrs Obaid said.

… according to a recent report by Population Action International, 18 of the 26 countries with the highest risk of maternal mortality also have highly restrictive abortion laws.

"Women's lives are saved when abortion is legal," Ms Coen said.

"And saving women's lives strengthens the family, makes societies healthier, economies grow faster and countries stronger. It's a win-win story."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is such an important issue. Thanks for calling attention to it here.

It kind of makes me think of this video. It is the uncensored acceptance speech that Sally Fields gave. If only...