Almost every maternal death is preventable, and the clinical expertise and technology required to prevent these losses has existed for decades.  Credit: Patrick Burnett/IPS
Almost every maternal death is preventable, and the clinical expertise and technology required to prevent these losses has existed for decades. Credit: Patrick Burnett/IPS
  • by Baher Kamal (Madrid)
  • Interpress service

Severe bleeding, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related infections, complications from unsafe abortions and underlying conditions that can be worsened by pregnancy (such as HIV/AIDS and malaria) are the leading causes of maternal death, the UN’s specialized agency reports.

“These are all largely preventable and treatable with access to quality and respectful healthcare.”

Why then are these causes still not prevented and treated?

In theory, it should be possible to end maternal mortality, UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Agency for Sexual and Reproductive Health stated, on February 23, that it is only three weeks before this year international women’s day (March 8th).

“Almost every maternal death is preventable, and the clinical expertise and technology required to prevent these losses has existed for decades.”

“Then why do almost 800 women still die every day from maternal causes? How can today a woman die every two minutes after pregnancy or childbirth?”

Alarming setbacks

It’s a question that has only become more acute with the release of the new one Report -based on estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and UNDESA/Population Divisionwhich reveals that progress in ending preventable maternal deaths has “not only slowed over the past five years, but stagnated.”

The report reveals “alarming setbacks” to women’s health in recent years, as maternal deaths have either increased or stagnated in almost every region of the world.

“While pregnancy should be a time of tremendous hope and a positive experience for all women, it tragically remains a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to high-quality, respectful health care.” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“These new statistics reveal the urgent need to ensure that every woman and girl has access to critical health services before, during and after childbirth, and that they can fully exercise their reproductive rights.”

A miracle turned into tragedy

“For millions of families, the miracle of childbirth is marred by the tragedy of maternal death.” said UNICEFs managing director Catherine Russell.

“No mother should have to fear for her life when she brings a child into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools to treat common complications are available. Equity in care gives every mother, no matter who they are or where they are, a fair chance to a safe delivery and a healthy future with his family.”

More poverty, more death

Overall, maternal deaths continue to be largely concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and in countries affected by conflict, according to the report.

In 2020, about 70% of all maternal deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, the maternal mortality rate was more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 223 globally).

Strong inequalities

About one third of the women don’t even have four of a recommended eight prenatal check-ups or receive necessary postnatal care, while some 270 million women lack access to modern family planning methods.

In addition, “inequality related to income, education, race, or ethnicity further increases the risks for marginalized pregnant women, who have the least access to essential prenatal care but are most likely to experience underlying health problems during pregnancy.”

Unnecessary deaths

“It is unacceptable that so many women continue to die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth. Over 280,000 deaths in a single year is unconscionable.” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.

“We can and must do better by urgently investing in family planning and filling the global shortage of 900,000 midwives so that every woman can get the life-saving care she needs. We have the tools, knowledge and resources to end preventable maternal deaths; what what we need now is the political will.”

The Report reveals that the world must “significantly accelerate progress to meet global targets to reduce maternal deaths or risk the lives of over one million more women by 2030.”

Question: How much money is needed to stop such horrific deaths? Wouldn’t it be enough to devote what the world’s giant private companies gain in just one minute by selling weapons, speculating in oil, power and food prices, marketing artificial baby milk and a very long et cetera, let alone technology?

Is digitization more urgent?

There is another question that needs an answer: how come the UN, despite the above-mentioned achievements, is now focusing on the need to “digitalize” women’s lives?

See what the UN says about this year international women’s day (March 8), under the theme: DigitalALL: Innovation and technology for equality:

“Our lives depend on strong technological integration: attending a course, calling loved ones, making a bank transaction or booking a doctor’s appointment. Everything currently goes through a digital process.”

“However, 37% of women do not use the Internet. 259 million fewer women have access to the Internet than men, despite accounting for almost half of the world’s population.”

The world’s major multilateral body further explains that if women cannot access the Internet and do not feel safe online, they cannot develop the necessary digital skills to engage in digital spaces, reducing their opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, technology and mathematics (STEM) related fields.

And that by 2050, 75% of jobs will be related to STEM fields. “But today, women hold only 22% of the positions in artificial intelligence, to name just one.”

TRUE: Women have historically been victims of all kinds of abuse, violence and targeted inequalities that have systematically left them far behind in all aspects of life.

Shouldn’t their indisputable right to the most basic healthcare – now and always – be a high priority on the world’s agenda?

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service