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Emily Jacobson, ThirdAge dot com: Maternal Death Rate Quadruples In South Africa

Maternal Death Rate Quadruples In South Africa
by Emily Jacobson, August 8, 2011

The maternal death rate in South Africa has quadrupled in ten years, according to a new report.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), based in New York, reported that the mortality rate of mothers in South Africa has risen to over 4,500 per year, nearly four times what it was ten years ago. Maternal death rates in most other African countries have gone down. HRW interviewed 157 women, including nurses and caregivers, and visited 16 health facilities.

The report says that the death increase could be due to better reporting and a large HIV/AIDS rate that affects about 18 per cent of South Africans (around 5.7 million people). It could also be because of very poor health care and nurse abuse.

“All South Africa’s good intentions, policies and strategies on paper won’t save women’s lives without strong accountability systems to make sure policies are carried out,” said Agnes Odhiambo, lead researcher for the HRW project, as quoted by The Associated Press.

According to the report, several women said they avoided giving birth in hospitals or clinics because of stories of ill-treatment. For example, three South African hospitals are currently under investigation for mysterious deaths, which were supposedly from a superbug. The hospital had no gloves soap, disinfectant spray or toilet paper.

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says he agrees with some findings in the report, noting that officials are “painfully aware” of the problems and that he has been working towards lowering maternal deaths for over two years.

Between 1998 and 2007, the maternal mortality rate increased to 625 deaths from 150 for every 100,000 live births.

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