The number of women dying of pregnancy and childbirth related complications has reduced by almost half in 20 years, according to May 2012 estimates released by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.
"I am very pleased to see that the number of women dying in pregnancy and childbirth continues to decline. This shows that the enhanced effort of countries, supported by UNFPA and other development partners, is paying off. But we can’t stop here. Our work must continue to make every pregnancy wanted and every childbirth safe," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
According to the Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival Count Down to 2015, Cameroon in the past 20 years has managed to reduce the number of maternal deaths per every 100 000 successful deliveries, from 680 to 600 – a decline of 11 per cent. However, this is far from the global trends. The WHO report “Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2010”, shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 – a decline of 47 per cent.
While substantial progress has been achieved in almost all countries, Cameroon and many countries in sub-Saharan Africa will likely fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2015. Many factors account for this slow response to maternal mortality including unmet needs of family planning, limited skilled birth attendants, abortions and socio-economic inequity.
Only 37% of women’s family planning needs in Cameroon are satisfied. In the Batomo village in Munchum Division, only 3 out of the 15 women we spoke to have ever seen a condom with none of them admitting they have ever used it. The availability of modern contraceptives in this community is about zero per cent. However, the case seems different in the urban areas. Talking to 100% Jeune Live, Mrs. Tah Alice, a Family Planning service provider at CMA Nkwen, Bamenda says the problem is not unavailability. ‘Most of the modern contraceptives are available but the beneficiaries don’t maximize usage. The young girls, among whom the highest number of unplanned pregnancies and maternal deaths occur, seek information on these contraceptives when they are already pregnant’.
Instead of increasing, skilled attendant at delivery has dropped to 63 per cent compared to 64 per cent in 1991. (Count Down to 2015). ‘In the past two decades, the Cameroon health system never saw the importance of designing a curriculum for professional studies in midwifery. The few birth attendants we find in the hospitals today were trained as general nurses’ says Mr. Ngalla Elvis, the registrar of Institute of Science Technology, Bamenda.
Since every pregnant woman cannot be attended to by a skilled birth attendant, the poorest girls and women are deprived. The ratio between the poor and the rich pregnant women that go for one and more antenatal care is 45 is to 100 respectively while skilled birth attendant for these social groups is as wide as 11 is to 100 ratio. (count down to 2015)
During the African Regional Consultation on MDG 5 held in Kampala recently, prominent leaders such as Miss Jill Sheffield, the President of Women Deliver and Dr. Fred Sai, renown African Maternal Health Advocate made us understand that maternal health is the most neglected but devastating Millennium Development Goals. Every two minutes, a woman around the world dies of pregnancy-related complications, the four most common causes being: severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortion. Most of these deaths could have been prevented with proven and affordable interventions.
“We know exactly what to do to prevent maternal deaths: improve access to voluntary family planning, invest in health workers with midwifery skills, and ensure access to emergency obstetric care when complications arise. These interventions have proven to save lives and accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal 5," said Dr. Osotimehin.