The Washington Post is reporting that one in eight pregnant women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. This is the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world.
More than 500,000 women a year — about one every minute — die in childbirth across the globe, almost exclusively in the developing world, and almost always from causes preventable with basic medical care. The planet’s worst rates are in this startlingly poor nation on West Africa’s Atlantic coast, where a decade of civil war that ended in 2002 deepened chronic deprivation.
According to the United Nations, a woman’s chance of dying in childbirth in the United States is 1 in 4,800. In Ireland, which has the best rate in the world, it is 1 in 48,000. In Sierra Leone, it is 1 in 8.
Leave your suggestions about what can be done, and read more about the devastating consequences of this unequal distribution of health resources, after the jump.
As the Washington Post report notes, maternal mortality is a silent killer that results from a combination of lack of resources and the devaluing of women.
Maternal mortality rarely gets attention from international donors, who are far more focused on global health threats such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS. “Maternal death is an almost invisible death,” said Thoraya A. Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund.
Women die in childbirth every day, according to people who study the issue, because of cultures and traditions that place more worth on the lives of men. “It really reflects the way women are not valued in many societies,” said Betsy McCallon of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, one of the few groups that advocates to reduce deaths in childbirth. “But there is not that sense of demand that this is unacceptable, so it continues to happen.”
The women die from bleeding, infection, obstructed labor and preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. But often the underlying cause is simply life in poor countries: Governments don’t provide enough decent hospitals or doctors; families can’t afford medications.
So what can be done? Is it simply about throwing money at developing countries and hoping the money finds its way to women’s health? Is it about requiring governments to provide access to pre- and post-natal care? Is sending trained doctors a plausible stop-gap solution?