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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs