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Despite Progress, More Effort 'Urgently' Needed To Prevent Maternal Mortality In Africa

Citing a U.N. report released in May, titled “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010,” which shows “the number of women worldwide dying of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications has almost halved in the last 20 years,” Agnes Odhiambo, a researcher for women in Africa at Human Rights Watch, writes in this Inter Press Service opinion piece, “Although there was a 41 percent reduction in sub-Saharan Africa, the progress is slow and uneven. … Greater effort is urgently needed to save pregnant women.” She continues, “African governments need to invest in strong health care systems and to ensure that there are enough health care facilities that can provide emergency obstetric care, equitably dispense suitable drugs and supplies, and employ a sufficient number of adequately trained health professionals, including those with midwifery skills.”

“To avoid maternal deaths, it is also important to prevent unplanned and early pregnancies,” Odhiambo notes, and writes, “Governments should prioritize comprehensive sexuality education so that girls and boys have accurate reproductive health knowledge to make informed choices about sex and reproduction” and “should expand family planning information and services, including offering a wide range of contraceptive methods and access to safe abortions.” She notes, “Addressing underlying social and economic inequalities that contribute to the problem is just as important,” and concludes, “As the continent celebrates Africa Day on Friday, May 25, governments should give some thought to the estimated 162,000 women and girls who will be buried by the end of this year. … If Africa truly cared about its women, it would do more to save their lives” (5/25).

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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.