U.N. Secretary-General Calls Lack of Progress To Reduce Maternal Mortality An ‘Outrage’
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "slammed the world's progress on lowering the maternal mortality rate" at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva on Tuesday, the Malaysia Sun reports. Ban said reducing deaths during pregnancy and childbirth was the slowest moving of all the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, which he called an "outrage," according to the Malaysia Sun. "Maternal health is a key barometer of a functioning health system," he said, adding, "In the 21st century, no woman should have to give her life to give life" (MacInnis, Reuters, 5/19). He also said governments should avoid cutting health budgets due to the economic downturn, warning that it could reverse progress already made on health goals (SAPA/News24.com, 5/19).
After Ban's "forceful" remarks, Sarah Brown, the wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said 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, Reuters reports. Brown said that officials should "put girls and women at the center of funding for health system strengthening," and that "[e]very health minister" at the WHA should be thinking about this and formulating a plan.
"We must find a way to get maternal mortality recognized as a key indicator of a functioning health system," she said (Reuters, 5/19).
Maternal Health in Chad, Zimbabwe and Ghana
- IRIN examined UNICEF's efforts to study the availability and efficacy of obstetric services in Chad. The study aims to help the government "scale up emergency obstetric care" in a country that is one of the "most dangerous places in the world to give birth," IRIN reports (IRIN, 5/19).
- IRIN also published an article about the "increasing trend of maternal deaths in Zimbabwe," which is sometimes the result of poverty, understaffed clinics and equipment shortages, three U.N. agencies said. The migration of midwives, blamed on the country's "economic collapse," is thought to have exacerbated maternal death statistics for 2007, IRIN writes (IRIN, 5/19).
- "Radical action" is required to address the maternal and child mortality rates in Ghana, which have been increasing despite efforts to reduce them, Gloria Qunsah Asare, director of the Family Health Division of the Service, said at the opening of the National Reproductive and Child Health Annual Review Meeting in Busua, Ghana, on Tuesday, the Statesman reports. Asare said that some of the major areas requiring attention include: family planning, skilled attendance, comprehensive abortion care, as well as adolescent health care (Yamikeh, Statesman, 5/20).