News / Africa

African Maternal Mortality Defies Global Trend

African experts on maternal mortality are meeting in Addis Ababa this week amid encouraging news of a worldwide decrease in the number of women dying from pregnancy and childbirth.  But Africa still lags behind other parts of the world in making childbirth safe.

The overall picture is hopeful.  A study published this month in the Lancet medical journal shows a significant drop worldwide in the number of mothers dying during pregnancy or childbirth.

But while the overall news may be positive, conditions in Africa remain at emergency levels.

The Lancet study says in 2008, six countries accounted for nearly half of all maternal mortality cases.  Three of them, Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are in Africa.

Opening a continental meeting of experts, Ethiopia Minister of State for Health, Kebede Worku, pointed to alarming numbers.

"One-million maternal / newborn deaths occur annually with African women having a one-in-16 chance of dying from complications of pregnancy," Worku said.  "Africa contributes about 47 percent of global maternal mortality.  Sub-Saharan African countries have the highest rates; 34 percent of all maternal deaths in Africa are due to unsafe abortions," said Worku.

The authors of the Lancet study say it is based on more sophisticated statistical methods than previous reports, and includes three times more data.  But many attending the Addis Ababa conference say they believe the Lancet study paints too rosy a picture of Africa.

U.N. Population Fund representative Etta Tadesse is among the skeptics.  She says existing programs are good as far as they go, but are too small to meet the challenge.

"It is not a total failure.  Things are working, but it is not at par with the challenges.  Women still die every day, as you and I speak now, so we still have a long way to go," she said.

Despite the grim outlook, a few family planning experts see bright spots on the horizon.  Grethe Peterson, of Marie Stopes International, points to Ethiopia as an example of a country where relaxing abortion laws has reduced the maternal mortality rate.

"In May, 2005, the government Ethiopia liberalized the abortion law, which under some circumstances made it possible to get access to safe abortions.  Every year until then, one-third of all maternal deaths were because of unsafe abortions.  That meant more than 7,000 women died every year from an unsafe abortion," said Paterson.

Petersen says the number of deaths has been coming down, despite the difficulty of getting the word out to Ethiopia's rural population about the change in the law.

Experts attending the continental meeting say much more work is needed to determine whether the tide is indeed turning in the fight against maternal mortality.  But the Lancet study is seen as a first sign of hope against a problem that in Africa has long been seen as intractable.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid