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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – October 27, 2003: Maternal Death Rates - 2003-10-28


This is Doug Johnson with the VOA Special English Development Report.

A study finds that one out of sixteen women in Africa will die during pregnancy or childbirth. The rate for industrial countries is one out of almost three-thousand women. Better health care would save many lives.

The findings are in a report released this month by three United Nations agencies. The World Health Organization joined with the U-N Children’s Fund and the U-N Population Fund. Researchers estimate that more than half a million women died during pregnancy or childbirth in two-thousand. They say ninety-five percent of these deaths were in Africa and Asia.

India had the highest number of maternal deaths, one-hundred-thirty-six-thousand. Pakistan and Afghanistan each had over twenty-thousand.

But the death rate was highest in Africa. Nearly forty-thousand women died in Nigeria. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia each had almost twenty-five-thousand deaths.

Carol Bellamy heads the U-N Children’s Fund. She says the numbers show an urgent need to improve reproductive health care for women. In addition, Mizz Bellamy says family planning programs would help make sure pregnancies are wanted and spread out over time.

Experts say many deaths could be avoided if more women gave birth with the help of skilled health workers. Currently, only about fifty-eight percent of women in developing nations have a trained health worker present during birth.

The new report says Latin America had four percent of the maternal deaths in two-thousand. Researchers say the rate is low because skilled health workers assist most women.

The findings show that Southeast Asia and Northern Africa had the greatest improvement in recent years in the use of skilled help. But in sub-Saharan Africa, less than half of women get such care during childbirth.

Carol Bellamy says pregnant women also must be able to receive emergency medical care if problems develop. Often, even if life-saving care exists, women may lack money, or a way to reach a medical center, or approval from their husbands.

World leaders have agreed to try to reduce maternal death rates by seventy-five percent over the next twelve years. This promise is part of the U-N Millennium Development Goals.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I’m Doug Johnson.

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