Maternal and infant mortality in Namibia.
Subject: Mothers (Patient outcomes)
Mothers (Causes of)
Mothers (Statistics)
Infants (Patient outcomes)
Infants (Causes of)
Infants (Statistics)
Author: Naughton, Aubre
Pub Date: 06/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: June, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 680 Labor Distribution by Employer
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Name: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 184549993
Full Text: In Sub-Saharan Africa, more young children die than in any other region in the world. One out of six children does not live long enough to celebrate their fifth birthday, according to 2008 State of the World's Children Report by UNICEF. And for every 100,000 live births, 920 women die from complications during pregnancy and labour. Nearly all of these deaths are caused by easily preventable and treatable conditions.

Why are women and children dying?

The most obvious cause of the high infant and maternal mortality rate is a general lack of access to effective healthcare. In Namibia, the majority of adequately staffed and equipped hospitals are located in the capital, Windhoek, while the majority of women live in rural areas, lacking transport and money to access health facilities. When rural women and children do manage to visit a hospital or clinic it is often too late: their health conditions having worsened beyond simple treatment.

UNICEF reports that most infants in Namibia die from the complications of malnutrition, diarrhoea, malaria, pneumonia and diseases such as measles, polio, tetanus, TB, whooping cough and diphtheria that could have been prevented through vaccination.

Women's deaths during pregnancy and labour are typically caused by malnutrition, hemorrhage and blood loss, severe eclampsia (convulsions), septicaemia (blood poisoning) and ruptureduterus (a tear in the wall of the uterus). Although HIV and Aids definitely play a role in claiming the lives of Namibian women and children, most deaths are caused by these more easily treatable and preventable conditions. More harmful, perhaps, than the direct influence of HIV and Aids on infant and maternal mortality rates is the way in which the pandemic has completely bombarded the healthcare system, taking resources away from treating the country's other health problems. As hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed by the treatment and care of patients with HIV and Aids, there simply aren't enough facilities or trained staff to care for women and children with more treatable conditions like dehydration, malnutrition and malaria.

What must be done?

One of the Millennium Development Goals Namibia aims to achieve by 2015 is the reduction of the maternal mortality rate by three quarters. With its current rate of reduction (2.1% per year), achieving that goal will take forty years. UNICEF emphasises that the quickest and most effective way to begin combating these deaths is through the collaborative efforts of local and national governments, civil society and community members.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services, aided by funding from the national government, should be responsible for an expansion and decentralisation of health care to bring hospitals and clinics into the more rural communities. These institutions should be properly equipped and staffed to provide Basic Emergency Obstetrics Care and Emergency Obstetrics Care. This would make available parenteral (injected or infused) antibiotics and drugs, assisted vaginal delivery and removal of placenta, and the ability to perform surgery and blood transfusions. The clinics and hospitals involved in this expansion should then partake in a re-vamping of the Primary Health Care System to increase access to immunisation for preventable diseases as well as the basic care needed to treat conditions like diarrhoea and malaria.

UNICEF also calls on local governments and communities to make the health of infants and mothers of the utmost importance by working to improve hygiene and overcome malnutrition in their communities.

Hope for the future

With a multi-sectoral approach, these measures are attainable and the reduction of infant and maternal mortality rates is possible. The Namibian government has shown great success in improving social services when they are given the proper funds and staff to implement their programmess.

It is the responsibility of local governments, civil society, community members and international aid agencies to push for the allocation of the resources needed to make these changes real.
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