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African women 175 times more likely to die


African women 175 times more likely to die in childbirth – UN study

African women are 175 times more likely to die in childbirth than women in developed regions of the world, according to a United Nations interagency report released today.

The report, “Maternal mortality 2000,” said that a woman living in sub-Saharan Africa has a 1 in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, compared with a 1 in 2,800 risk for a woman from a developed region. The study was conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF), and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The results were released in Geneva today by WHO. It is the third in a series that previously studied 1990 and 1995 statistics.

According to the study, of the estimated 529,000 maternal deaths in 2000, 95 per cent occurred in Africa and Asia, while only 4 per cent (22,000) occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, and less than one per cent (2,500) in the more developed regions of the world.

“Experience from successful maternal health programmes shows that much of this death and suffering could be avoided if all women had the assistance of a skilled health worker during pregnancy and delivery, and access to emergency medical care when complications arise,” the report concluded.

"Many women deliver their children alone or with family members or other untrained attendants who lack the skills to deal with complications during delivery," said WHO Director-General Lee Jong-wook. "Skilled attendants are vital because they can recognize and prevent medical crises and provide or refer for life-saving care when complications arise. They also provide mothers with basic information about care for themselves and their children before and after giving birth."

"These new estimates indicate an unacceptably high number of women dying in childbirth and an urgent need for increased access to emergency obstetric care, especially in sub-Saharan Africa," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "The widespread provision of emergency obstetric care is essential if we want to reduce maternal deaths."

The report said the maternal mortality ratio, which measures the number of deaths to women per 100,000 lives births due to pregnancy-related complications, was estimated to be 400 per 100,000 live births globally in 2000. By region, it was highest in Africa (830), followed by Asia – excluding Japan (330), Oceania – excluding Australia and New Zealand (240), Latin America and the Caribbean (190) and the developed countries (20).

Worldwide, 13 developing countries accounted for 70 per cent of all maternal deaths. The highest number occurred in India where 136,000 women died, followed by Nigeria where there were 37,000 deaths.

In 2000, world leaders agreed to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015, as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


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