October 1, 2023

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PAHO launches campaign to reduce maternal mortality

March 8, 2023

CMC – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in collaboration with a number of other United Nations agencies and partners, Wednesday launched a campaign to encourage countries in Latin American and the Caribbean to reduce maternal mortality, which increased by 15 per cent between 2016 and 2020.

PAHO said an estimated 8,400 women die each year in the region from complications in pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Of those, 1,300 were in the Caribbean.

It said high blood pressure, severe bleeding, and complications from unsafe abortion are the most common causes. However, nine out of 10 of these deaths are preventable through quality care, access to contraception and by reducing inequities in access to care.

“Too many women, particularly indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant, low-income and less educated women, continue to die during pregnancy and childbirth,” said Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO Director, during the launch of the campaign on International Women’s Day.

“It is time to urgently invest in maternal health and change this unacceptable reality.”

PAHO said “Prevent the Preventable” seeks to accelerate progress towards the regional goal of less than 30 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births outlined in its  Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas.

Last year, the maternal mortality ratio, that is, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Latin America and the Caribbean was 68 per 100,000 live births.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 20-year setback in maternal health in the region, with a 15 per cent increase in maternal mortality between 2016 and 2020, following a 16.4 per cent reduction between 1990 and 2015.

“If we want to get back on track with reducing maternal mortality we must address the socioeconomic, gender, ethnicity, education and geographical inequities that lead to the death of so many women,” said Suzanne Serruya, Director of PAHO’s Latin American Center of Perinatology, Women and Reproductive Health (CLAP), adding “doing so requires the involvement of all sectors of government and society”.

PAHO said accessible maternal health services, as well as professionals who are available, trained, equipped and respectful of the rights and particularities of expectant mothers is also key to reducing maternal mortality.

“The reversal in the pace of maternal mortality reduction is a harsh and unfortunate reality in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Susana Sottoli, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“We call on governments, civil society, the private sector and communities to put an end to the situation of thousands of women for whom the miracle of giving birth becomes a tragic reality.”

Preventing the Preventable is an initiative of the Regional Task Force for the Reduction of Maternal Mortality (GTR). The campaign will focus on the dissemination of social media messages and country-specific actions throughout May. It also includes a call for action to all of society to protect women and newborns.

The campaign launch ended with the signing of a joint declaration to reduce maternal mortality.

Among those attending the event included Nayeline Medina, from the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women; Debora Bossemeyer, Vice President of Global Programs and Operations of Jhpiego; Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Health of Guyana; José Manuel Matheu, Secretary of Health of Honduras; and Lida Sosa Arguello, Vice Minister of Health and Health Surveillance of the Ministry of Public Health of Paraguay.

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