Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Worst Places in the World to be a Mother

Save the Children is an organization HDEO has encountered in many contexts and forums over the years and it remains an NGO for which we have respect in every aspect. Their advocacy work in recent years has really taken on an important momentum and we would like to highlight their most recent report, focusing on maternal health which basically looks at the worst places in the world to be a mother and proposes solutions to remedy this situation. 

I find it horrifying for instance, that one in seven women in Niger is likely to die while pregnant or in childbirth (compare this to one woman out of 47'600 in my own country). One of the main pillars in the much-lauded Millennium Development Goals (or MDG's) is precisely on the area of maternal health - the deadline to 'bridge the divide' and ensure equality for all women and children is fast approaching in 2015. With organizations like 'Save' I hope we can move at least in the right direction. A mother and child (who barely recovered from near-fatal malnutrition) in Mauratania. Most women in sub-Saharan Africa give birth with no skilled health worker present. (IRIN photo)

Eight of the bottom 10 countries as ranked in Save the Children’s annual Mother's Index, which ranks the best and worst places to be a mother, are in sub-Saharan Africa, says the NGO. 

Afghanistan, Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea form the bottom 10; while Norway, Australia, Iceland and Sweden come top. 

One in seven women dies in pregnancy or childbirth in Niger and one in eight in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone; while the risk is one in 25,000 in Greece and one in 47,600 in Ireland. 

“The problems around maternal and newborn health have been raised for many years, but there still remains so much to be done,” says Houleyemata Diarra, Save the Children’s regional adviser for Africa. “There are not enough skilled attendants at births, and governments are not taking into account where health workers are needed - in communities.” 

Over half of deliveries take place at home in most sub-Saharan African countries, with no skilled birth attendant present, according to the UN Children’s Fund. 

Save the Children is calling on governments and donors to prioritize building up a workforce of female health workers to serve in their communities and local clinics. 

These workers should be incentivized with better training, pay, and support for career growth, says the NGO. 

It costs a lot to train a doctor or run a hospital, but the cost of giving community health workers basic training - to diagnose and treat common early childhood illnesses, organize vaccinations and promote good nutrition and newborn care - does not have to be exorbitant. 

In Bangladesh the NGO found that providing female community health-workers with six weeks of hands-on training and some formal education caused infant mortality rates in affected areas to drop by a third. 

“There are a lot of models of this working well around the world,” said Save the Children’s Diarra. “African countries need to follow these examples.” 

/PC with thanks to IRINNEWS.ORG 

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