Maternal Mortality in Africa

Upon learning they are pregnant, most women do not immediately wonder if it’s a fatal diagnosis. However, that is the stark reality for many women in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal mortality in Africa is a pervasive and devastating issue. Far hospitals, scarce doctors and poor healthcare systems all contribute to maternal mortality. Most maternal deaths are preventable and caused by complications treatable in developed nations. It is important to recognize the causes of maternal death and solutions already in place to further reduce maternal mortality in Africa.

Causes of Maternal Mortality

The most common causes of maternal mortality are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, delivery complications and unsafe abortions. In most cases, these are treatable with access to trained medical staff and proper medication. Access to maternal health care varies around the world. “A 5-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa faces a 1 in 40 risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime. A girl of the same age living in Europe has a lifetime risk of 1 in 3,300,” according to Dr. Greeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director of UNICEF. Factors such as “poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services, [and] cultural practices” prevent women from having access to the proper medical services they need.

Additionally, warfare in developing countries causes the breakdown of healthcare systems. This further prevents women from accessing life-saving medical care. For example, when the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, it left less than 300 trained doctors and three obstetricians to treat the country’s 6 million people.

Solutions to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Many NGOs work throughout the region to combat maternal mortality in Africa. In fact, the United Nations initiated the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, 2016-2030. Their goal is to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births” by 2030.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, there needs to be better documentation of maternal mortality in Africa to create more effective policy solutions. Currently, less than 40 percent of countries have a registration system documenting the causes of maternal mortality. Hence, this lack of information makes it difficult for the U.N. and NGOs to create effective solutions.

An unexpected yet effective way maternal mortality in Africa has been combated is through photography. Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent Lynsey Addario took her camera to the region to document maternal mortality. Addario documented the experiences of many women, including 18-year-old Mamma Sessay in Sierra Leone. Sessay traveled for hours by canoe and ambulance while in excruciating labor to reach her nearest hospital. Addario stayed with Sessay for the entire experience, from the birth of her child to her subsequent hemorrhage and death. Addario even traveled with Sessay’s family back to their village to document Sessay’s funeral and her family’s grief.

Ultimately, TIME published Addario’s photographs. And as a result, Merck launched Merck for Mothers, giving $500 million to reduce maternal mortality rates worldwide. Addario stated, “I just couldn’t believe how unnecessary her death seemed, and it inspired me to continue documenting maternal health and death to try to turn these statistics around.”

The Bottom Line

The international community must continue to address maternal mortality, a preventable tragedy. No woman should have to fear for her own life or the life of her unborn child upon discovering she is pregnant. Through documentation, reporting and care, the international community can fight to reduce maternal mortality in Africa.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by a parasite known as plasmodium. This parasite is transmitted to human by the anopheles mosquito. An infected person of this disease shows signs of dizziness, loss of appetite, anemic, high fevers, dehydration and loss of body weight.

The History of Malaria: The word malaria comes from the 18th century Italian “mala” meaning “bad” and “aria” meaning “air”. Most likely the term was first used by Dr. Francisco Torti in Italy, where people thought the disease was caused by foul air in marshy areas. It was not until the 1880’s that scientists discovered that malaria was a parasitic disease.

The Socioeconomic Effect of Malaria: Malaria kills a child somewhere in the world every minute; it infects approximately 219 million people each year with an estimated 660,000 deaths mostly being children in Africa. Ninety percent of malaria death occurs in Africa. It is one of the most dreadful diseases reducing the populace on the large scale. The sickness also contributed greatly to anemia among children-a major cause of poor growth and development.

Malaria also has some serious economic impact in Africa, slowing economic growth and development and perpetuating the vicious cycle of poverty. Malaria is truly a disease of poverty afflicting primarily the poor who tend to live in malaria-prone rural areas. Nevertheless, the rich cannot be left out with the infection of this sickness.

Prevention and Control: Malaria, many say, is no respecter of person. Irrespective of one’s social status, malaria can indeed infect many people.  It is in this light that people must take precautionary measures to protect themselves, family and friends from this dreadful sickness. Those living in malaria prone regions like Ghana should make sure they follow certain precautions, some of which are as follows:

  • The use of effective mosquito repellent cream.
  • Cover legs and wear long sleeves at night.
  • Ensure windows and doors are screened to avoid mosquitos from entering rooms.
  • The use of treated mosquito bed nets whiles sleeping.
  • Spraying homes and surrounding with insecticides.
  • Clear shrubs, stagnant waters and weed surroundings of areas that help the breeding of mosquito.

Get Involved in the Fight Against Malaria: It is high time all stakeholders globally, be it governments agencies, health institutions, policy makers, developmental agencies and individuals, get involved in the fight against Malaria. Government and other developmental agencies should formulate realistic policies, carry them out, monitor the progress of these implementations and evaluate their final outcomes.

These programs, in effect, when implemented, will help the fight against malaria and help improve the living conditions of the rural poor. Just as the adage goes, “brighten the corner where you are” the individual cannot be left out in the fight as well. Gutters or drains and the environment need to be free from the breeding of mosquitoes and as such, the onus also lies on us as individuals to practice personal and community hygiene. People should not wait for government agencies and other non-governmental organizations to help clean their environments; they must take responsibility of their actions and outcomes and ensure they genuinely support the fight against poverty through the prevention and control of malaria.

William Annang

Sources: UNICEF, Medical News Today
Photo: The Guardian

Nelson Mandela Dead
Nelson Mandela dead? Yes, the unthinkable has occurred. Arguably the world’s greatest advocate and symbol of compassion has passed away.

On Thursday December 5, 2013, Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. He was one of the most revered men in the world, for he was an example of dedication, forgiveness, and triumph. He sacrificed his own freedom, so that others who were less fortunate could obtain their own freedom. After spending 27 years of his life in a prison cell, he was released to the cheers of billions around the world. He was the ultimate symbol of hope for a region that was on the brink of destruction. His leadership ultimately averted a racial civil war.

As the first democratically elected president of South Africa, he faced many obstacles, but was ambitious in his presidential vision. During his presidency, Nelson Mandela set out to elevate his countrymen and women from poverty. He petitioned for foreign governments to invest in his countries resources. He pushed for fair distribution of farmland to include those who were impoverished. He was successful in implementing free health care access to children under the age of six, and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, giving healthcare to the poor.

After retirement from the Presidency in 1999, he focused his attention on other noteworthy causes. He created the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which through education has brought people together to combat HIV and AIDS in his home country. Through the organization, the 46664 campaign (his prison-issued number) has staged many prominent concerts to stimulate South African youth awareness to AIDS prevention. His example of perseverance in eradicating AIDS in South Africa has brought the country closer to an AIDS-free generation.

He also urged governmental leaders across the world to do more to alleviate global poverty. In a 2005 speech in London, Nelson Mandela pushed for leaders across the world to support global poverty reduction initiatives. He said, “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings… While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” His words were a call to arms for leaders of more developed nations to extend their posterity to poorer nations.

The world has lost a true leader, a champion of equality, and a hero for the poor. Nelson Mandela’s example has inspired millions worldwide, and he will be missed but not forgotten.

Travis Whinery

Sources: Forbes,, Huffington Post, BBC, The Economist, CNN
Photo: ABC World News

Last Tuesday, President of Bangladesh Zillur Rahman passed away in a hospital in Singapore while receiving treatment for kidney and respiratory problems. In commemoration of the late President, three days of national mourning are to take place in Bangladesh from March 21 to 23.

Since the late 1940s, Rahman had led a strong political life, having participated in the Language Movement in 1952, the Six-point Movement in 1966, and the War of Liberation in 1971. After the war, as a member of the Bangladesh Constituent Assembly, Rahman took part in forming the Constitution of Bangladesh and became the General Secretary of the Awami League. Following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, first president of Bangladesh and father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in 1975, Rahman was arrested by the army junta and sentenced to four years in prison. Rahman was a close friend and personal aide of Mujibur. From 1996 to 2001, Rahman was minister in the Awami League government. Throughout his political career, Rahman has played an active role in Bengali nationalist movements and pro-democracy campaigns, and has been a strong advocate for the Awami League. In 2009, Rahman was sworn into office as 19th President of Bangladesh.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry have both expressed their condolences, commenting that Rahman was an integral part of Bangladesh’s birth as a country and transition towards democracy.

Until a new president is elected, Abdul Hamid, the parliamentary speaker, will be acting as president. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calls Rahman’s death “an irreparable loss to the country and its people,” describing him as a patriotic leader. Rahman’s body will be flown back to Bangladesh on Thursday.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: National News Agency Of Bangladesh, Global Post, Washington Post