According to Global Action for Children, 12 percent of all children in sub-Saharan Africa are orphans. That’s a huge number. That’s about 1 out of 10 children you see are missing either one parent or both and with that comes serious complications. Children whose mothers are dying or have died are 4 times more likely to die within two years compared to children with healthy mothers. It is without a doubt that the influence of a healthy mother on the health of their children is massive, then why are we allowing mothers to die during or after giving birth to their children? These orphaned children are left at a high risk from birth and we can do something about it.
In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that the maternal mortality ratio(number of maternal deaths to number of births) in 2000 was 1000 per 100,000 live births. So where are we now? We don’t really know. In “Maternal mortality: who, when, where and why” from the Lancet in 2006, Ronsman and Graham give us hope that progress can be made by providing examples of Sri Lanka and Malaysia but not much is known about areas needed the most in sub-Saharan Africa.
“…a recent analysis of trends in maternal mortality based on 1990 and 2005 estimates shows that maternal mortality has decreased globally, although not at the rate needed to achieve MDG 5. The analysis finds, too, that during this period little progress was made in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest levels of maternal mortality.”-Unicef
We have just 5 more years to reduce maternal mortality to reach the MDG 5 goal of 75% between 1990 to 2015. Chances are we won’t make it. We haven’t made the progress we wanted and we should be trying harder, especially because we have the tools to do it.
Most cases of maternal mortality occur within the third trimester and the first week after the end of pregnancy from preventable reasons.
“Five direct complications account for more than 70% of maternal deaths: haemorrhage (25%), infection (15%), unsafe abortion (13%), eclampsia (very high blood pressure leading to seizures – 12%), and obstructed labour (8%)”-WHO
These complications can be avoided with better quality obstetric care. With better care, these complications can be determined quicker and treated prior to becoming fatal. Haemorrhages can be treated with drugs and blood transfusions (depending on the type) and bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Improving access and quality of care will not instantly solve the problem of maternal mortality because there are other factors such as HIV and abortion that account for the other 30% but it is a proven that access to care results in a lower maternal mortality ratio. We can save mothers and children through these efforts.
As we approach World Health Day on April 7th, we need to keep all of this in mind and make every mother and child count.