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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid