With the second highest maternal mortality rates, Chad falls drastically behind the fifth United Nation Millennium Development Goal in diminishing the mortality ratio by three quarters. There are approximately 1,100 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, illustrating a dire need for solutions.

The nature of the problem varies, with deaths ranging from hemorrhage, HIV/AIDS, limited access to health care and obstructive labor. There is also a high Total Fertility Rate in Chad, with women averaging about 5 children.

Many disparities exist between Chadian women who live in urban and rural areas, where the latter averages a much higher TFR. This is partially due to the lack of access to antenatal care as well as limited availability of contraceptives.

Similar to many other patriarchal societies, men play a big role in hindering women from receiving family planning services, consequently endangering their spouse.

High maternal mortality rates pose serious social and economic repercussions for Chadians, further sinking affected families in poverty and decreasing the nation’s economic growth.

A mother is the foundation of a family and research has shown that when a mother passes, there is a greater likelihood for a child to drop out of school, in addition to becoming malnourished.

To address the problem at hand, the Chadian government should focus on increasing access to health facilities, strengthening family planning services and educating young mothers on proper antenatal care. Establishing clinics with trained health professionals  increases the rate of women with medical supervision during childbirth.

Chad has witnessed inadequate human resources for health; thus, more midwives and physicians are in need of proper training. In addition, 20 percent of women have an unmet need for contraceptives, indicating that family size is out of their control.

Better access to family planning allows births to be spaced out and reduces unwanted pregnancy. Furthermore, education is key in developing countries. Teaching Chadian women about reproductive health will ensure that women are making choices that are best for their bodies and will give them a sense of empowerment.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: CIA, Safer Birth in Chad, World Bank
Photo: The Guardian

Maternal Mortality in Afghanistan
In recent years, Afghan women have achieved significant social, economic, political and cultural gains that affect their quality of life. Despite these improvements, the country is still burdened with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. According to UNICEF, 1,800 women die for every 100,000 births; most of these deaths are highly preventable, making it a serious public health concern.

The most common complication resulting in the death of the mother is post-partum hemorrhaging. Most Afghan women give birth in their homes, whether by choice or because of rural location. The differences in maternal mortality rates by region reflect the lack of resources and lack of access to health facilities. Most of the rural home-births are done without the presence of a skilled birthing attendant, increasing the risk for the mother.

UNICEF estimated that only 7 percent of women who died used a birthing attendant. Another challenge Afghan women face is access to hemorrhaging preventing drugs. Inexpensive drugs that simply don’t reach parts of rural Afghanistan where it is needed the most, due to conflict or allocation complications.

Afghanistan’s shortage of midwives and antihemorrhagic drugs are not the only two factors contributing to the high mortality rate. Lack of education, political participation, social and cultural practices also play large roles.

Women forced into marriages at a young age is not uncommon. Since contraception is not widely used, women also get pregnant at very young ages. When a woman is 14 or 15, the body is usually not developed enough to naturally carry a child. Women having children at a young age is arguably the greatest biological danger for a mother and her child. High maternal mortality rates directly effect infant mortality rates. When the mother of a newborn dies, the child only has a 1 in 4 chance of surviving the first year of  its life.

UNICEF and the Center for Disease Control make several recommendations aimed at improving the lives of women and reducing the maternal mortality rates: establishing health care services in rural areas that are equipped with essential drugs and able to perform cesarean sections, assisted deliveries and safe blood transfusions as necessary; increasing the number of trained birth attendants, midwives and nurses; providing education programs on recognizing pregnancy complications; and building and repairing roads to make health care facilities more easily accessible.

Maris Brummel

Sources: New Security Beat, Huffington Post, UNICEF

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

Maternal Mortality Drops; MDGs Still IncompleteIn 1990, complications during childbirth claimed the lives of more than 1,487 women a day in the 75 countries where women were most at risk for birth-related deaths. This number, which totals 543,000 per year, was reduced to 287,000 in 2010. A decline this steep (52%) aligns with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the U.N. in 2000.

Countdown to 2015, an organization, which tracks coverage levels for health interventions aimed at reducing maternal mortality, child mortality, and newborn mortality, has collected statistics recording this decline since the 1990s. However, the steepest decline in mortality occurred after 2000 once the Millennium Development Goals were set in place. The Millennium Development Goal that specifically targets this problem is MDG 5.

The results of MDG 5 are a little behind schedule. The U.N. outlined a decline of two-thirds by 2015 and currently, the drop has only reached 47% worldwide. However, the total number of lives saved has been extremely high.

While it is easy to criticize the efforts of the Millennium Development Goals as being ineffective in reaching their target percentage, the general amount of good being done by the development goals is still very high. This type of progress oftentimes has a ripple effect which is very difficult to measure by surveys and statistics alone.

– Pete Grapentien

Photo Source Flickr

UNICEF India 2_opt
India has organized a national summit on Call to Action for Child Survival and Development from February 7th to 9th. Held in Mahabalipuram, the summit brought together both national and international experts, policymakers, as well as representatives of developmental agencies including the U.N., to assess challenges and work toward achieving India’s development goals.

India is the regional front-runner when it comes to social entrepreneurship and its rapid advances in the health sector, specifically in dealing with maternal and child mortality rates. The summit additionally presents the need to build upon this great momentum both locally and globally. Since the 1990s, India’s maternal mortality rate has dropped by more than 50 percent, while its child mortality rate has reduced by 45 percent.

The United States government has pledged its support for India’s Call to Action initiative. USAID has been actively working with the government of India in its development undertakings, especially eradicating preventable child deaths. USAID is now initiating the Country Development Cooperation Strategy, which will focus on fostering partnerships locally and work towards co-funding rather than fully funding agreements in support of the efforts for finding solutions for child survival.

USAID expressed its commitment to this effort voicing, “An investment in India’s children is an investment in India’s future.”

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: USAID
Photo: UNICEF India