The birth of George Alexander Louis, the heir to the British throne is exciting news in itself, but also provides an opportunity to reflect on the women around the world for whom childbirth is a dangerous, often fatal experience.

Every year in sub Saharan Africa, 162,000 mothers die from complications during childbirth and pregnancy, representing an alarming 56% of the global total. The saddest part of this high statistic is that many of these deaths could be avoided if more was done to prevent them.

Due to a combination of insufficient resources, lack of transportation to health care centers, inadequate labor forces, and information gaps, maternal care in sub-Saharan Africa lags far behind the rest of the developing and developed world. Although the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals have increased maternal health standards as one of their many goals, most experts on the region agree that sub-Saharan Africa has a long way to go if it is to meet its MDG goals by 2015. Though the 2001 Abuja Declaration set countries on the path towards assigning 15% of their national budgets towards healthcare, true progress has been slow.

Though the bad news may seem overwhelming, it has certainly inspired global organizations to take action towards improving the quality of maternal health care in the most neglected regions. AMREF, for example, has launched its Stand Up for African Mothers Campaign, which aims to train 15,000 midwives by 2015 as a way to bridge the labor, information, and access gap prevalent in most sub-Saharan regions.

By ensuring the safety and health of the world’s mothers, these organizations take a much-needed step towards ensuring that every new mother is treated like a “queen” by her regional health care services, and lives to see her own little prince or princess grow up.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources : CNN, United Nations Population Fund United Nations AMREF USA AMREF UK
Photo : Notorious

On the afternoon of July 22nd, the British commonwealth grew excited in anticipation for the arrival of the Royal baby, but what if baby George, the Prince of Cambridge, never arrived? What if complications had severed his chances of survival? Despite the joy the Royal baby received on his safe arrival, what would this baby and his mother would have done if they lived in a Third World country?

In the developing world, childbirth complications contribute to high maternal and infant mortality rates. The highest infant mortality rate comes from Afghanistan with more than 1 in every 10 newborns dying during childbirth. Around the world, nearly 3 million newborn infants die, with an additional 2.6 million born stillborn every year.

Yet, we must remember that such high figure does not take into account the mother in these events. An estimated 800 women die each day from pregnancy related causes. As it stands, 99% of these maternal deaths come from developing countries.

The greatest causes of maternal mortality include severe bleeding, infections, contaminated delivery rooms, high blood pressure, high risk abortions, and harmful diseases. Fortunately, these deaths are preventable. Unfortunately, there is much to be done in order to reduce these numbers.

Along with health issues, other challenges include “delays in seeking care, inability to act on medical advice, and failure of the health system to provide adequate or timely care” according to the WHO’s 2005 World Health Report.

However, there is a bright side; maternal deaths have been nearly halved since 1990. This improvement is due, in large part to an increase in social acceptance of midwives, adequate training of attendants, and proper implementation of health expert strategies. With a 2.4% annual rate of decline in maternal mortality, many experts agree that it proves the success of strategies and more resources must be committed.

Health experts point to success stories, such as in Rwanda. Despite genocide and destroyed infrastructure, maternal mortality has been reduced by more than half since 1990. Even more, women in Rwanda have doubled their access to skilled attendants, up to 52%. Many attribute this success to the government’s commitment to women’s health with proper planning.

But Rwanda is not the only country cutting their maternal mortality rate. Progress is being made around the world. However, more must be done in order to continue this progress. Although current strategies are proving successful, the developing and developed countries must continue committing themselves to the development of international health sectors.

– Michael Carney

Sources: AlertNet Climate, CIA World Factbook, UNFPA, WHO
Photo: US Weekly