According to a WHO report more than half a million women in developing countries dies of childbirth each year. WHO and the Partnership for Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health //are intensifying support to countries around the world to ensure that a woman does not die while giving birth to her child.
The report indicates that the needs are wide-ranging - from training skilled birth attendants who can help a woman give birth safely, to the very basic issue of recording the cause of a woman's death. WHO estimates that maternal deaths are under-reported by as much as 50% because deaths are not classified correctly, or more often, not counted at all. In 62 countries of the world, there are no maternal mortality data whatsoever.
"If dead women are not even counted, then it seems they do not count. We have an invisible epidemic," said Joy Phumaphi, World Health Organization's Assistant Director-General on Family and Community Health, at a gathering of health ministers, maternal health specialists, African Parliamentarians, leaders of non-governmental organizations and donor agencies today in Nairobi.
"Pregnancy is a normal, life-affirming state. Women should not die giving birth. Their deaths are preventable, even in the poorest countries. But it takes local knowledge, strength and partnership to ensure women's lives are saved."
The main causes of maternal deaths are haemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders, obstructed labour and unsafe abortion. This leaves almost one million children motherless each year. These children are 10 times more likely to die in childhood than children whose mothers have not died.
There is a stark divide of maternal mortality between the rich and poor countries. In some developing regions, a woman has a one in 16 chance of dying in pregnancy and childbirth. The risk of dying in pregnancy in the world's poorest countries is over a hundred times higher than in the richest ones.
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