Director General of the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) Gro Brundtland has urged African countries to pay more attention to pregnancy safety.
Speaking in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, Brundtland said African women faced the highest danger of death during pregnancy or whilst giving birth compared to all other women in the world.
According to WHO, an estimated one in 16 women in Africa will die during pregnancy or in labour. In Europe or North America this figure is estimated at one in 4,000. WHO said that most maternal deaths occurred during or shortly after delivery, a time when women were least likely to receive the health care they needed.
It said that quality health care during this time was the single most important intervention for preventing maternal and new born mortality.
It said that 63 percent of African women have access to "adequate" health care, but the utilisation rates still remained low. Reasons for this included distances from health services, high costs of medication and the multiple demands on women's time, such as being the primary care-giver and the main income earner in the family.
WHO said that when a women died her direct family and the community at large were adversely affected. Families lose her contribution to the household income and communities at large lose an important source of unpaid labour such as the cultivation of communal lands.
WHO said improving women's health care would in the long term save families and governments the costs of health care. Last year WHO used safe motherhood as the theme for World Health Day.
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