MSF highlights medical approaches to avert maternal deaths during humanitarian crises
On International Women’s Day, the international medical-humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is underlining the fact that far too many women continue to die avoidable deaths during childbirth. MSF’s briefing paper, 'Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis' details how the provision of emergency obstetric care to pregnant women in acute and chronic humanitarian crises can have a direct impact and save women’s lives.
“It is an ongoing tragedy that we are still seeing so many women die in childbirth, when we know that the provision of quality care at the time of delivery can have a direct impact,” says Kara Blackburn, Women’s Health Advisor for MSF. “We must always remind ourselves that a maternal death is an avoidable death.”
Following years expanding its own programmes to meet the needs of pregnant women, MSF seeks to draw attention to the dearth of emergency obstetric care in a number of crises. The paper examines the situation for pregnant women in 12 countries where MSF works, including Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Haiti, and highlights the necessity of emergency medical assistance, particularly when complications occur.
“We know that fifteen percent of all pregnancies worldwide will face a life-threatening complication,” says Blackburn. “These women need access to quality emergency obstetric care whether they live in Sydney, Port-au-Prince or Mogadishu – the reality is the same whether in a modern hospital in an international city or in a conflict zone, refugee camp or under plastic sheeting after a devastating earthquake.”
While the need for emergency obstetrics and assisted deliveries outlined in the paper is also relevant in Southern Africa, many mothers in the region struggle with yet another risk: HIV. The virus directly impacts maternal mortality through its association with pregnancy related complications including anemia and hemorrhage among others. HIV is also a major indirect cause of maternal mortality, as it weakens a pregnant woman’s immune system even more and thus increases her risk to contract opportunistic infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nine percent of all maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa were found to be directly related to HIV. This proportion is much higher in Southern Africa. In Lesotho, for instance, WHO estimates that 58.9 percent of maternal deaths are related to HIV, which has seen maternal mortality figures double between 2005 and 2010.
“The high prevalence of HIV, low rates of antenatal attendance, and low coverage of skilled birth attendants are the main determinants of high maternal mortality in Lesotho, and the region,” says Marleen Dermaut, project coordinator for MSF in Lesotho. “New strategies, health services closer to people’s homes and enhanced community support are urgently needed to ensure women have access to early antenatal care and HIV treatment, including the most potent services available to prevent mother to child transmission.” MSF’s newly launched project in Lesotho aims to reduce illness and deaths amongst mothers and infants by strengthening maternal and child health services and by integrating them into HIV and TB care.
To arrange interviews with MSF’s women’s health spokespeople, contact:
Mobile: 079 872 2950
To read the Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis, refer to goo.gl/3uEtk.
Note to media: Footage and photos of MSF’s maternity care activities are available
For more about Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, refer to www.msf.org.za.
To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/group/home-page/pressreleases.