(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Too many women dying in childbirth

Mother and children in Burkina Faso. Giving birth is a game of roulette as the country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world
Nicholas Reader/IRIN

The United Nations Population Fund has launched a campaign in Burkina Faso to drastically reduce maternal mortality by promoting assisted delivery and prenatal consultations.

The campaign aims to reach 80 percent of women at the age to procreate in rural areas, and 50 percent in the cities.

In Burkina Faso, according to the Ministry of Health, just 63 percent of women see a doctor while they are pregnant, of whom only 23 percent do so regularly.

Burkina Faso has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region, with 484 women dying per 100,000 deliveries.

“We realised that… we need to accelerate our work if we are going to make a difference,” said Olga Sankara, head of the health reproduction programme at UNFPA’s office in the capital, Ouagadougou.

The three-month campaign will include radio and television programs, including dramas, to educate people about the advantages of prenatal consultations and the advantages of delivering at health care centres.

Discussions will also be conducted with men and opinion and traditional leaders.

“Each message displays not only women, but also men because people should not think that assisted delivery is concerns only women because men are most often the final decision-makers,” said Siaka Traoré, communication and advocacy officer at UNFPA’s Ouagadougou office.

Burkina Faso was this week revealed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as being the least-developed country in the world among the 177 that UNDP evaluates.

Niger, which had languished in the bottom spot for several years, jumped up four positions. Since 1990 it has registered a 10-year rise in life expectancy and an 8 percent increase in school attendance, and the level of adult literacy has improved by 17 percent.

Niger, however, ranks worse than Burkina Faso for birth- and health-related issues as just 16 percent of births are in the presence of a health official compared to 38 percent in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is currently facing a shortage of qualified medical personnel. According to UNDP there are just five physicians per 100,000 people. Burkina Faso government officials say the country’s poverty is to blame, both because it is expensive to train medical staff and where they exist many people cannot afford to pay to use their services.

bo/nr/np

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