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Amnesty International Report Highlights Maternal Mortality ‘Emergency’ In Sierra Leone

“One in eight women in Sierra Leone risks dying of pregnancy and childbirth complications exacerbated by a combination of poverty, discrimination, inequality and government mismanagement,” according to an Amnesty International report, released Tuesday, Reuters AlertNet reports (Fominyen, 9/22). 

The report said that despite “promises from the government to provide free health care to all pregnant women,” thousands of women and girls die “because they are routinely denied their right to life and health,” Agence France-Presse/Independent Online reports. An Amnesty International statement noted that “less than half of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant and less than one in five are carried out in health facilities.” Most women “die in their homes. Some die on the way to hospital, in taxis, on motorbikes or on foot,” it added (9/22).

Six out of the country’s 13 districts do not have a single hospital that offers emergency obstetric care and there are only 78 doctors for 5.8 million people, according to the report, which noted that there are shortages of medicines and medical supplies, Reuters AlertNet reports. The cost of interventions are another challenge in Sierra Leone, “where 70 percent of the population lives below the United Nations poverty line of $1 per day.” But “the critical delays that increase the risk of maternal death start at home where women have little decision-making power over their reproductive lives,” the news service writes (9/22).

“‘These grim statistics reveal maternal deaths are a human rights emergency in Sierra Leone,’ said Irene Khan, Amnesty’s secretary general, launching the report in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown,” the Guardian writes (Smith, 9/22). Khan said although “[a]dditional money is desperately needed in Sierra Leone,” it “will not reach women and children in remote areas who are at greatest risk.” She added, “The lives of women and girls will only be saved when the health system is properly managed and the government is held to account,” AFP writes (9/22).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.