47% Drop in Maternal Deaths

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DODOMA, Tanzania — The U.N. is hopeful that the first target of the fifth Millennium Development Goal – to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters – will still be achieved after the rate was decreased by two-thirds in Tanzania. With the 2015 deadline quickly approaching, Tanzania, along with other developing countries, are working with both local and international organizations to further decrease this mortality rate.

The success in Tanzania was a result of the collaborative efforts from both government and non-government organizations and societies, showing how widespread this cause really is. According to Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete during his speech at a global meeting on the health rates of both mothers and children, “Doing more together is the best way forward”.

But Tanzania is not the only country where such progress has been seen. As of 2013, the maternal mortality rate declined by 47 percent globally, and maternal deaths decreased by two-thirds in Eastern Asia, Southern Asia and Northern Africa according to the U.N.

Like the purpose of the U.N.’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, Kikwete is also looking to continue this trend by further promoting both maternal and child health in Tanzania, even after he leaves office next year. It was during this same speech that Kikwete promised to create a plan that will initiate the health policy focusing on the various causes of maternal mortality.

Having a plan for the future is essential since there is still plenty of progress to be made to achieve worldwide maternal health. According to the World Health Organization, 289,000 women died while being pregnant or giving birth in 2013 alone. Perhaps the worst part of this statistic is that a large majority of these maternal deaths are avoidable, but only if all women have access to the necessary nutrients and proper health care.

Midwives can provide women with the essential care that they need, and the presence of midwives at childbirth has contributed greatly to the decrease in maternal deaths due to various complications, such as hypertensive disorders, hemorrhages and sepsis. Between 2003 and 2009, half of all the maternal deaths were caused by these three childbirth complications alone according to Humanosphere. Women need medical attention all throughout their pregnancy and especially during labor, and midwives can greatly promote the health of both the mother and the newborn.

Although reducing the maternal mortality rate by three quarters is an important and achievable target as shown in Tanzania, this represents only part of the fifth Millennium Development Goal. Target 5.B is to ensure that reproductive health is accessible globally.

This second target has had more of a mixed success compared to the first target. Even though 81 percent of pregnant women in developing countries now receive care during their pregnancy, only 50 percent of those women visit health services to receive care four times over the course of nine months, which is the recommended minimum number of visits. Furthermore, the number of teenage pregnancies decreased while the use of contraceptives increased in the 1990s, but the progress in these two areas has now slowed throughout the 2000s, showing that there has not been continual progress seen with this target.

The success in Tanzania and other countries show that not only is reducing the maternal mortality rate a worthy goal, but also one that is achievable. Even if these two targets of the fifth Millennium Development Goal are not achieved by the 2015 deadline, work should still continue to progress toward a world where there are minimal health risks toward both mothers and their children.

Sources: United Nations, Humanoshphere, World Health Organization, Daily News
Photo: Flickr

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Meghan Orner

Meghan is a BORGEN Magazine writer from Norristown, Pennsylvania.

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