UN report ranks Kenya in top ten on maternal deaths

By GATONYE GATHURA

Kenya remains among ten most dangerous countries for pregnant women even as the world becomes safer than it was two decades ago, according to the United Nations report.

A new UN report on trends in maternal deaths from 1990 to date shows that last year, 6,300 women in Kenya died from pregnancy related complications.

The report, released early this week, shows the number of women dying due to pregnancy complications today has declined by almost a half globally, but remains worrying in sub-Saharan Africa.

Globally, the report estimates some 289,000 maternal deaths last year, a decline of 45 per cent from two decades ago. The sub-Saharan Africa region alone accounted for 62 per cent of global deaths followed by Southern Asia at 24 per cent. Some good news from the continent indicate that Cape Verde and Mauritius, have managed to achieve extremely low rates of maternal deaths.

A high-level UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health requires that by 2015, all countries establish an effective system for registration of births, deaths and their causes.

The 2014 Economic Survey released a fortnight ago shows less than half of deaths in the country are being registered,  which means nobody really knows what is actually killing majority of Kenyans. The ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality’ significantly deviates from most previous reports.

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“More than one  in four  maternal deaths are caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, whose health impacts can all be aggravated by pregnancy,” says the World Health Organisation.

Normally, severe bleeding, heart failure, complications of anaesthesia or caesarean section are classified as direct maternal deaths. However, WHO classifies indirect maternal deaths as those resulting from previously existing diseases.

Unsafe conditions

HIV, which killed more than 49,000 people last year majority of them women, is also cited as one of the biggest problem complicating child bearing. On a positive note, Kenya is cited as one of the best performing countries in Africa in supplying antiretrovirals to people infected with HIV.

“The report highlights the need to invest in proven solutions such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth, and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo of the WHO.

Within the last 20 years, the UN says not much progress has been made in preventing adolescent pregnancies and abortions.

“More than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 years give birth every year – one in five girls before they turn 18,” says Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund.

Last year, the Ministry of Health in a comprehensive report said 465,000 women had abortions in the previous year, the vast majority in unsafe conditions.

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