Pakistan: Disgraceful maternity mortality rate reflects appalling status of country's women Print E-mail

 Pakistan July 06, 2006 Thursday Jumadi-ul-Sani 9, 1427


Maternal mortality


WITH three women dying every hour of birth-related complications in Sindh, it is no surprise that the province has some of the worst figures in Pakistan for maternal healthcare, as indicated by doctors at a recent seminar in Sanghar. The situation in the rest of the country is not much better. It is, in fact, worse in rural Balochistan where, in some areas, the maternal mortality rate is well over 700 per 100,000 live births, above the national average of 500. The urban/rural differential is even greater, and cities like Karachi have an MMR of approximately 300. These figures speak volumes for the kind of ramshackle health infrastructure that exists in most parts of the country and the poor access to proper medical services. But this is perhaps an obvious deduction. What the statistics also reflect is the generally low status accorded to women and the kind of conservative attitudes that make it difficult for many to even consult a doctor during pregnancy.

At least 30 to 40 per cent of pregnant women in the country suffer from anaemia, a blood condition relating to an iron-deficient diet ­ one that can predispose them to haemorrhaging, a major cause of death during childbirth. Hypertension and infection are other factors which, if not controlled, can prove fatal. Unfortunately, the traditional birth attendants who oversee most childbirth cases in the country do not possess the required training to handle deliveries where life-threatening complications can develop. While the government is well aware of the dangers of this situation, not enough is being done to impart the requisite knowledge and skills to birth attendants who remain largely ignorant of the rules of even basic hygiene. Besides making basic health services accessible to women, there is a need to correct the gender bias that is at the root of the high prevalence of maternal mortality.