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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights

The Peril of Giving Birth

The Peril of Giving Birth

May 10, 2010

This International Women Day, Oxfam Canada is calling for a major boost to health care systems worldwide to address the shocking conditions for millions of women giving birth.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women still face a one-in-sixteen chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth. Niger is the most dangerous place to give birth with women facing an astonishing one-in-seven chance of dying. Millions of health care workers are urgently needed to stop this carnage.

‘It is unacceptable that in this day and age, so many women in poor countries are still dying in pregnancy and childbirth. Canada and others must provide more and better aid to improve health systems and save millions of women’s lives, said Robert Fox, executive director for Oxfam Canada.

Current trends indicate that overall aid is likely to fall for the second year in a row, despite G8 promises of significant increases. Canada’s aid is stuck at 0.3% of GNI, far short of the international target of 0.7%.

Specifically, Oxfam says that more funding is needed for health, a sector where there is a shortage of more than four million health practitioners. Oxfam points to the fact midwives help reduce the number of maternal deaths. Sri Lanka has one midwife for every 1,800 people, and also has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the developing world.

Every year, Oxfam says, over half a million women in developing countries die from complications in pregnancy or childbirth, most of them needlessly. In 2000 world leaders committed to reducing maternal mortality by three quarters. Eight years later, Oxfam argues, there is no evidence this rate is declining.

‘Evidence shows that a strong health system accessible to everyone, including the poorest, is needed to reduce maternal mortality. It’s time to see rich countries put their money on the table, and show they are serious about keeping their promises and saving women’s lives. said Fox. ‘Canada must ensure new aid is invested in public services, such as education and health care, which directly support equality for women and girls.

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The 10 most dangerous places to give birth are:

Lifetime risk of maternal death (1 in X people)

Ratio of nurses. (1 nurse to every X people)

1

Niger

7

4500

2

Afghanistan

8

4500

3

Sierra Leone

8

2770

4

Chad

11

3703

5

Angola

12

869

6

Liberia

12

5555

7

Somalia

12

5263

8

DRC

13

1883

9

Guinea Bissau

13

1492

10

Mali

15

2040

Sri Lanka

850

632

Canada

11,000

100

Source: WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank and the Nurses Association of Canada (2005)

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