There has been some increase in the number of women accessing antenatal healthcare services in Yemen over the past four years, but most mothers still deliver at home and their health situation remains rather bleak, according to new reports from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The proportion of women benefiting from antenatal healthcare services has increased from 40 to 55 percent over the past four years, according to an 18 May Health Ministry report covering 2006-2010.
At a conference in Sanaa on 18 May sponsored by the National Women’s Committee and the Health Ministry, some women’s rights activists criticized slow progress in antenatal healthcare coverage.
UN Population Fund (UNFPA) deputy representative Zeljka Mudrovcic said 22 women die in Yemen every day due to pregnancy and birth-related complications.
“As 80 percent of women deliver at home, much more needs to be done to improve antenatal health care for women and reduce high mother and infant mortality rates,” she said.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, supported by UNFPA, launched on 17 May the distribution of 30,000 clean and safe home delivery kits for the year 2010 in an effort to improve this situation.
According to WHO’s 10 May World Health Statistics 2010 report, Yemen’s maternal mortality rate was 430 cases per 100,000 live births, the highest in the Middle East.
Antenatal care coverage (“the percentage of women who used antenatal care provided by skilled health personnel for reasons related to pregnancy at least once during pregnancy, as a percentage of live births in a given time period”) was 47 percent - the lowest in the Middle East, according to the report.
Rural areas worst affected
Repeated miscarriages and post-natal bleeding - particularly among girls in rural areas - are among the major factors behind the high maternal mortality rate in the country, according to Nema Naser al-Suraimi, a specialist doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology at al-Thawra Hospital in Sanaa. “In rural areas, miscarriage is commonplace, particularly as 52 percent of girls marry before the age of 15,” she told IRIN.
Yemen’s adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years) stands at 80, according to the WHO report.
“In many remote villages where health facilities don’t exist or are very far away, many women die inside cars on their way to [maternity] hospitals in provincial capitals,” al-Suraimi said. “Women in rural areas don’t receive basic health care from the beginning of pregnancy and therefore are prone to multiple birth-related complications.”
According to Mohamed Ghurab, another obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at the Sanaa-based Republican Hospital, 70-80 percent of maternal deaths can be avoided by raising public awareness of the risks of home delivery.
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions