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More Than 150 Health Ministers Meet In Ethiopia To Discuss Maternal Mortality

At a U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, “[h]ealth ministers from around the world have agreed that swift action must be taken to reduce the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth,” the BBC reports. While there appeared to be some agreement “that family planning was the most cost-effective way of [tackling] the problem … no unanimous declaration was adopted at the Addis Ababa talks,” according to the news service (10/26).

More than 150 health ministers attended the meeting about worldwide maternal mortality, Talk Radio News Service reports. The gathering aims to provide the health officials with a forum “to share best practices and lessons learned in reproductive health,” the news service writes. UNFPA estimates that an additional $5.5 billion to $6.1 billion will be required by 2015 to meet Millennium Development Goal targets related to maternal health. “Results from the meeting will be shared with parliamentarians from across the globe at the International Conference for Population and Development (ICPD/15) which will take place in Addis Ababa later this week” (Dowlatshahi, 10/26).

The meeting also addressed the need for “primary and emergency healthcare to save the lives of both mothers and babies,” BBC writes. “But many governments – like that of the host [country] Ethiopia – have already invested heavily in training midwives only to have them work abroad,” the BBC writes. The article includes information about a program in Ethiopia that aims to train midwives who will stay in their communities (10/26). BBC has several audio reports about the meeting. The reports include an interview with Yves Bergevin, the coordinator of the U.N.’s Maternal Health Fund (10/26).

BBC also published features highlighting maternal mortality in different parts of the world:

  • One article examines fistula, the midwife shortage and other issues related to maternal health in Ethiopia. According to Gordon Williams, medical director at the Hamlin Hospital, “women in rural areas are often stopped from eating much during their pregnancy, and are worked extra hard in the belief it will stop the baby from growing too big in the womb. It does not. Instead, by the time she comes to give birth the woman will be weak and malnourished,” BBC writes (10/26).
  • A second article examines maternal mortality in Malawi. “Nationwide, some 16 Malawian women die every day in childbirth or from related complications – the second-highest figure in Africa behind Sierra Leone,” the BBC writes. The article includes an accompanying video, which features a bicycle ambulance that is being used to address maternal mortality in the country (Allen, 10/26).
  • Another article looks at maternal mortality in Afghanistan. “Changing the fate of women in childbirth means changing so much of life here. There is no electricity, no running water, no paved roads. Outside the capital, a trip to the clinic – if it exists – can mean walking for days, traveling by donkey, or if the family can scrape together enough money, by car,” according to the BBC (Doucet, 10/26).

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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.