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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL : No woman should die giving birth
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Sep 22, 2009, 17:18
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Everybody knows someone who died. Now this person was pregnant and she is now dead, this woman was pregnant and now is dead, Isa Cole, Freetown, Sierra Leone

 

Sierra Leone has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world.

 

        One in eight women die in Sierra Leone as a result of childbirth, compared to one in four thousand five hundred (1/4500) in developed countries. 

        Almost twenty percent of women receive no antenatal health care.

        Six of Sierra Leone's 13 districts have no emergency obstetric care at all.

        Only 14 of Sierra Leones 38 hospitals are providing comprehensive emergency obstetric care and not a single primary health facility is able to offer even basic emergency obstetric care

 

Women dying during pregnancy or childbirth is not natural or inevitable. It is an abuse of a womens rights to health and life. It doesnt have to be this way. Mothers dying while bearing children is preventable.

 

Amnesty International is prioritizing Sierra Leone because of the unacceptably high numbers of maternal deaths in the country. A high level delegation, led by Amnesty Internationals Secretary General Irene Khan, will visit Sierra Leone to launch a six year campaign to reduce maternal death in the country. 

 

Since she arrived in Freetown on 18 September Irene Khan has met with Vice President Sam Sumana, First Lady Sia Koroma and other senior government ministers to discuss maternal healthcare in the country. She has also visited hospitals to meet victims and healthworkers, civil society representatives, womens groups, international donors, diplomats and members of the United Nations.

 

In Freetown on Tuesday 22 September, Irene Khan will kick-off the Amnesty International Caravan to End Maternal Mortality that will tour the country raising awareness of maternal deaths as a human rights issue within Sierra Leone and demanding improved healthcare services from the government. She will then join the next stop in the Caravan, the town of Makeni, 110 km away from Freetown. The Caravan will continue to the towns of Kabala and Kambia and Bo and Kenema.

 

Also on Tuesday 22 September, Amnesty International will launch a comprehensive report into the problem of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone. The report is called Out of Reach: The Cost of Maternal Healthcare in Sierra Leone.

 

Girls and women in Sierra Leone face barriers that prevent them from accessing the health services they need during pregnancy and childbirth. These barriers include womens lack of power, which means their health needs are not prioritized. They are discriminated against and denied their right to decide when and how many children to have. They lack information on sexual reproduction and poverty, which prevents them from accessing healthcare.

 

The Government of Sierra Leone has promised to provide free healthcare to all pregnant women, but high costs are still a major barrier preventing women from obtaining lifesaving health care. According to the UN, Sierra Leoneans pay the highest out of pocket expenditure; up to 70% of a Sierra Leoneans household income is spent on healthcare. Many women arrive late because of the time spent raising money and often fees have to be paid in advance even when a womens life is at stake.  Costs vary widely and there is no transparency about what should be charged, leaving the patient without any say or ability to plan for their health care needs.  

 

Amnesty International calls on the government of Sierra Leone to fulfil its promise to provide free healthcare to pregnant and lactating women in order to reduce the number of women dying unnecessarily during pregnancy and childbirth.  

 

/ENDS


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