Why East Africa Will Not Likely Meet Maternal MDG

In summary

  • Reports showed that only Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea in Africa have managed to reduce the proportion of women dying in childbirth by three-quarters.
  • In East Africa, Tanzania and Burundi have made insufficient progress, while Kenya has made no progress at all.
  • Rwanda and Uganda were among the 20 countries in Africa that have made some progress.

East Africa is unlikely to meet the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) on maternal mortality, with a woman in Africa having a 1 in 16 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth, a conference to review Africa’s progress on MDGs was told.

At the recently concluded 2012 Annual African Women Parliamentarians Conference in Midrand South Africa, reports showed that only Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea in Africa have managed to reduce the proportion of women dying in childbirth by three-quarters.

In East Africa, Tanzania and Burundi have made insufficient progress, while Kenya has made no progress at all — the MDGs target Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio going down to 200 deaths per 100,000 live births, but reports by the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey indicate that the country is still recording 488 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Rwanda and Uganda were among the 20 countries in Africa that have made some progress.

Almost 50 per cent of women die 24 hours after giving birth due to haemorrhage, infections, obstructed labour, unsafe abortion or even poor nutritional status of girls and women.

“No woman should lose her life while giving life to another,” said Bethel Amadi, president of the Pan African Parliament during the official opening of the conference.

Mr Amadi said that as elected representatives of vulnerable women and children, parliamentarians should play an oversight role to make sure that there is a budget function that takes care of the health of mothers and children.

The regional director of UNFPA Bunmi Makinwa, said Africa is the second fastest growing region economically after Asia, and in the health sector.

The continent has witnessed a 41 per cent reduction in maternal deaths over the past 10 years. However, nearly 165,000 women die annually in Africa in pregnancy and childbirth.

Mr Makinwa said that extensive use of family planning methods and good midwifery services can reduce the maternal mortality by 33 per cent and 75 per cent respectively.

“Family planning ensures that women who do not want to fall pregnant access services to assist them. If this happens, induced abortions will be reduced. In Africa, more than 40 per cent of maternal mortality comes from abortion,” Mr Makinwa said.

UNFPA says that lack of understanding of the political agenda, poor policies that do not address this issue head-on, and low levels of financial investment prevent the implementation of the MDGs.

Mr Makinwa lauded the Ugandan parliament, which refused to approve the 2012-2013 budgets unless additional money was allocated to health.

The lawmakers managed to secure 35 per cent of the additional funds they were lobbying for, and the money went towards recruiting health workers and increasing salaries for medical doctors.

However, the Africa Public Health Parliamentary Network’s Dr Rotimi Sankore said that investing more money in the health sector is not enough — countries should have good human resource for health, pointing out that Malawi, with a population of 14 million, has just 257 doctors serving them, the majority based in Lilongwe.

Cuba, on the other hand has nearly the same population but has 67,000 doctors.

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