At least 45,000 mothers died during pregnancy or childbirth
Since 1990, the gap between the countries with the highest and lowest level of maternal mortality has widened. In fact, it has doubled. According to the 2016 Lancet Maternal Health Series released recently, it is important to improve the quality of care and reduce disparities in access to health care services. The study analyses the causes, trends, and prospects for maternal health in the era of rapid demographic and socio-economic transition.
Widening inequities in maternal health
Despite falling birth and death rates, the unfulfilled need for contraception continues to drive population growth, putting stress on already fragile health infrastructure. The study observed that indirect causes of maternal mortality and morbidity are becoming more prominent with low- and middle-income countries also witnessing a rise in cases of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other chronic conditions.
Lifestyle and behavioural changes, leading to first-time pregnancy among women in late 30s and 40s, are further complicating the situation. Women are more vulnerable to climate change-related disasters and environmental degradation that compel them to spend more time on surviving sudden changes and less on taking care of themselves. The unabated spread of vector-borne diseases like malaria, Zika and Ebola are also putting maternal health at risk.
Global status on maternal health
In five of the seven sub-Saharan African countries studied during the research, more than 25 per cent of their facility births happened in sites that lack capability to provide care even for uncomplicated childbirth.
Sub-Saharan African countries with the largest numbers of births (Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia) have less than two midwives and obstetricians per 1,000 pregnancies.
In four countries, more than two-thirds of facility births were in sites that lacked basic infrastructure like water. Over 50 per cent of facility births were in sites that didn't have basic emergency obstetric care.
According to estimates, over 18 million additional health workers are needed by 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
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