(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Corruption fuels maternal deaths, Amnesty says

Mothers in a waiting room at a clinic in Sierra Rutile area 250 km from Freetown, capital city of Sierra Leone. February 2008. Due to poor health facilities in Sierra Leone more than 1 in 4 women die during child birth, improving maternal health would red
Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

While a lack of capacity in the health sector contributes to Sierra Leone’s maternal death rate – the highest worldwide – corruption is a significant culprit, according to Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan.

“Obviously the health system is under-resourced and it clearly needs more capacity,” Khan told IRIN from the capital Freetown at the launch of Amnesty’s global maternal health campaign. “But at the same time it is riddled with corruption…It is important to give free health care to pregnant women, but it has to be managed well and governments have to be held accountable for providing health care.”

One in eight women in Sierra Leone dies in pregnancy or childbirth, according to the UN – a “human rights emergency”, Amnesty says in a communiqué accompanying its new report, ‘Out of reach: the cost of maternal health in Sierra Leone’. 

Amnesty says women’s status in society is a detriment to their health.“Lack of maternal health care is a form of discrimination,” said Khan. “Women are unable to make decisions about access to health care or to access contraception. We need to empower and women to make decisions about their own health.”

Six of Sierra Leone’s 13 districts have no emergency obstetric care.

World leaders are expected to discuss access to health care in developing countries at the UN General Assembly on 23 September.


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