29 January 2013

South Africa: SA 'Working to Curb Maternal Mortality'

South Africa, despite being the last country to launch the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), is set on using every opportunity to achieve the targets set out by the strategy, says President Jacob Zuma.

"South Africa is committed to doing everything we can to reduce maternal and child mortality and to improve the lives of women and children, both in our country and on the continent," Zuma said on Monday.

Speaking at a high level meeting of the CARMMA on the sidelines of the African Union Summit underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Zuma said the government had developed a national dashboard to monitor progress in the implementation of the strategy.

With the aid of government's development partners, the country's provinces have been supported to strengthen their plans to achieve the goals of CARMMA.

CARMMA aims to reduce the number of women who die as a result of childbearing, during pregnancy or within 42 days of delivery or termination of pregnancy, among others.

Part of South Africa's intervention will include strengthening family planning, especially teenage pregnancies, as they contribute up to 36% of maternal deaths, despite only constituting 8% of the total number of pregnancies.

Others measures will include eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV; strengthening maternity services by deploying dedicated obstetric ambulances to transport women in labour to the nearest appropriate health facility; training doctors and nurses who work in maternity units in the essential steps in the management of child birth emergencies; training more midwives and advanced midwives; and expanding immunisation coverage.

"Unfortunately, despite progress in dealing with HIV since 2009, HIV still contributes to about 40% of maternal and child deaths in South Africa. This means that unless we deal decisively with HIV, we will not be able to reduce maternal and child mortality to any significant extent," Zuma said.

In order to address this, he said the country's HIV programme - where citizens are encouraged to get tested for HIV at least once a year - was imperative in beating the epidemic.

According to the World Health Organisation, as many as 1 500 women die every day globally due to complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths occur in developing countries, most of them in Africa.


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