Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Maternal Mortality at the World Health Assembly

The 62nd session of the World Health Assembly took place in Geneva, from 18 May- 22 May. Although the recent flu pandemic dominated the discussions, monitoring the achievements of the health-related Millennium DeAdd Imagevelopment Goals was also on the agenda. Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and Sarah Brown, the wife of British prime Minister Gordon Brown, delivered passionate speeches that emphasized the necessity of dealing with global progress toward MDG 5, reducing maternal mortality.

Ban Ki-moon's speech "slammed the world's progress on lowering the maternal mortality rate" stating that of all the Millennium Development Goals, this is the slowest moving. He continued on to say that "maternal health is a key barometer of a functioning health system," and without making significant strides to reduce maternal mortality, hope for other health related progress, such as fighting HIV/AIDS, is limited. In the final moments of his passionate speech Ki-moon stated that, "In the 21st century, no woman should have to give her life to give life," maternal mortality must be quickly prioritized in order to stop the magnitude of avoidable deaths. Even in the face of one of the worlds worst financial crisis, we cannot scale back or stop our efforts in such an important area of health.

Sarah Brown addressed the World Health Assembly with an equally passionate speech. Speaking not as a researcher or a scientist, but rather as a mother, Sarah Brown was quick to point out that "there is no excuse for the fact that pregnancy and childbirth worldwide kill 529,000 women and leave one million children without a mother each year." With an emphasis on the incredibly high statistics of sub-Saharan Africa, Mrs. Brown made it clear that something must be done to save these women's lives, "We have the science, the technology, the medicine, the knowledge, the cultural understanding, the means to educate and inform and if we are moved to act, then let us show we have not only the compassion but the moral commitment and the political will too." Sarah Brown also pointed out the consequences of not acting for the children of these mothers. "When one mother survives a lot survives with her. A mother’s survival is the key to her baby’s welfare and often her baby’s life." With that in mind, it appears that not addressing maternal mortality hurts not only the 529,000 mothers who die each year, but also their children. By promoting effective reproductive health, a child's life will begin positively, and by having a mother to look to for advice and guidance, it is PPD's belief that combating maternal mortality will lead to a better life, and a better role in society for both mother and child.

In conjunction with the World Health Assembly, IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis project released updates on maternal health in Chad, Zimbabwe and Ghana. In Chad, one of the world's most dangerous places to give birth, UNICEFS efforts to step up obstetric care are examined, in order to better prepare for emergencies. IRIN's report on Zimbabwe shows an increasing trend of maternal deaths, due to understaffed clinics, equipment shortages, and poverty. In regards to Ghana, attention to family planning, skilled attendance, comprehensive abortion care, as well as adolescent health care are necessary in order to combat the increasing rate of maternal mortality present.

The Millennium Development Goals were instituted in 2000, but without much progress since then, recent meetings and events have seen more passionate speeches and dire requests than ever before. Prominent leaders such as Ban Ki-moon and Sarah Brown are instrumental in raising awareness of MDG 5, but without government cooperation and implementation of effective programmes, the target goals will never be met. We have the means, now we must show we have the political commitment and the compassion for women around the world.

Also on the subject of maternal mortality, the NY Times recently published an article focused on maternal mortality. Entitled, "Where Life's Start is a Deadly Risk," the article provides some interesting insights and an even more fascinating image portfolio of childbirth in Tanzania. To check it out, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/health/24birth.html?_r=1

1 comment:

Kirstie Ruby said...

On 1 June 2009, the NY Times published an article entitled "The Deadly Toll of Abortion by Amateurs," which followed up on the topic of maternal mortality in Africa, discussed last week. Part two of a three part series, the article focuses on abortion and childbirth in Tanzania, as well as provides statistics from some of the worst countries worldwide.