Leaders are called to lead accountability for mothers and child lives
Geneva, 05 June 2008- Maternal mortality is one of the world's most profound injustices--one of the main messages from The Partnership director to the special panel on United Nations Human Rights Council being held in Geneva.
According to Dr Songane, the challenge is not technological, but strategic, organizational and, above all, political. "We all have a role in fostering political accountability - of UN agencies, of donors, and of national leaders in countries. Women rights are being violated on a grand scale," said Dr Songane. "We have now a unique opportunity for building accountability for mothers and children….possibly through the maternal death audit, a concept which we will hear about this afternoon."
Giving birth should be a time of joy, noted Dr Songane. However, for more than half a million women each year, pregnancy and childbirth end in death or disability. "The death of a mother substantially increases the risk of death for her newborn child. Globally, some 4 million babies die in the first four weeks of their lives. Many of these deaths are a direct consequence of poor care at birth often cumulating with the death of the mother, " said Dr Songane.
Dr Songane went on to highlight the statistics of maternal mortality, calling the scale of the problem "shocking- with present-day levels in some African and Asian countries about the same as in European countries two centuries ago." With some 529,000 women dying each year of pregnancy-related causes, the lifetime risk of death is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with that lifetime risk being 1 woman in 16 facing the risk of maternal death in the course of her lifetime, compared with 1 in 2,800 in industrialized countries.
Dr Songane pointed out that maternal mortality is also an issue in industrialized as well as developing countries, pointing to maternal mortality statistics from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom where there are substantial differences between the privileged and less-privileged classes.
Other speakers at the event included:
- Paul Hunt UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
- Vincent Fauveau, a pediatrician, is Senior Maternal Health Adviser at UN Population Fund.
- Jashodhara Dasgupta is Coordinator of a voluntary organization, SAHAYOG, working on women's health and gender equality using rights based approaches.
- Monir Islam, an obstetrician, is Director of Making Pregnancy Safer at WHO, Geneva. with global responsibility for maternal and newborn health.