In 2002, UNICEF headquarters, two agencies stressed that maternal mortality is not just a “woman’s problem.” The study revealed that when the mother of a newborn infant dies, the child has only one chance in four of surviving until its first birthday.
“The loss of a mother at birth is one of the most traumatizing and critical events of a child’s life,” Bellamy stated. “Maternal mortality not only affects women, it affects children, fathers, families and entire communities. Maternal mortality is arguably the most neglected health problem in the world,” she said.
Additional findings of the report:
- Most maternal deaths were preventable.
- Only 7 percent of women who died gave birth with the help of a skilled birth attendant.
- Many of the women who died were between the ages of 20 and 29. Only 4 per cent of them were literate; 26 per cent of their husbands were literate.
- Maternal mortality rates varied substantially by region, reflecting differences in access to resources and health care between urban and rural areas.
As a result of the findings, UNICEF and CDC recommended the following:
- Establishing health care services in remote areas properly equipped with essential drugs and equipment, with capacity to undertake cesarean sections, assisted delivery, and safe blood transfusions, and with efforts to increase women’s use of such support services.
- Training skilled female birth attendants, nurses and midwives.
- Providing education programmes for women and their families to help them recognize the signs of normal as well as abnormal pregnancies and pregnancy complications.
- Providing treatment for complications such as pre-eclampsia, anemia and malaria and increasing access to quality antenatal care.
- Building and repairing roads to improve access to health care facilities in rural areas.
“It is terrible that women are dying in the act of giving birth,” said UNICEF Representative Eric Laroche, who leads UNICEF’s country program in Afghanistan. “UNICEF is deeply committed to helping Afghanistan improve the health of women and children, and a key to progress is lowering maternal deaths. This must be a priority.”
Background on the situation of children in Afghanistan:
Millions of Afghans, at least half of them children, are at high risk. Under-five mortality in Afghanistan is estimated at about 257 per 1,000 live births, or one in every four children. This is the fourth highest child mortality rate in the world after Sierra Leone, Angola and Niger. Meanwhile, one of every two Afghan children is malnourished and an estimated 40 per cent of children die from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections. Clean water and adequate sanitation facilities are also in short supply — with only 13 per cent of the population with access to safe drinking water and 12 per cent with access to adequate sanitation facilities.
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