African Bank gives help for mothers in Malawi

Posted: 15 February 2006

The landlocked country of Malawi, in East Africa, with its high plateau and beautiful Rift Valley lake, suffers one of the world's highest death rates among women and babies from causes related to pregnancy. Now the African Development Bank has given US$21.44 million to help reduce that tragedy.

The need is urgent, because maternal mortality has been rising in a country with 12 million people, limited resources, a stressed environment and a population that is on course to double by 2025.

The aim ,says the bank, is to operate on a broad front, involving five other international agencies, to help develop an effective health care delivery system that will reach vulnerable groups of poor women and children.

Malawi's maternal mortality rate, the number of women who die during pregnancy or giving birth, has risen from 620 per 100,000 women giving birth in 1992 to 1,820 per 100,000 women giving birth in 2005, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The infant mortality rate, the number of babies who die during birth stands at 104 deaths per 1,000 births.

Health and Population Minister Hetherwick Ntaba said last year that 16,000 new born babies die under preventable circumstances in the country. Observers have attributed the worsening maternal and infant deaths to poor access to reproductive health facilities, among other factors. Last year, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid urged governments, especially those in the developing world like Malawi, to ensure that every pregnant woman has access to reproductive health services.

Source: The Nation newspaper and others.