Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Laos needs more midwives to stem maternal mortality

Laos will fail to reach its Millennium Development Goal of reducing the maternal mortality rate by 2015 without more trained midwives and easier access to health services.

The country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia, Sally Sakukhu, from the Maternal Neonatal and Child Health Unit of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), told the media recently.

In 2005, 450 women out of every 100,000 live deliveries died in the process of giving birth. The government wants to reduce the ratio to 260 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.

The latest figures show the ratio is still 300 deaths per 100,000 live births – which presents a challenge to authorities concerned about reaching the target within three years.

“There aren't enough midwives to help pregnant women in rural areas. In these parts of the country, 5 per cent of pregnant women will lose their life giving birth,” Sakukhu said.

Another problem is that many midwives are undertrained and don't have the skills to help pregnant women give birth.

The government plans to improve medical services at rural health dispensaries. Each dispensary should have at least five medical staff. The government has also increased funding to create 15,000 midwife positions to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates by 2015.

At present, there are only around 300 midwife positions, a number recognised as a serious hindrance to the government in achieving its target.

However, the distribution of medical staff is not properly balanced and most medical staff and recent graduates are unwilling to work in rural areas.

Sakukhu said ethnic groups' traditions, inability to pay for medical services, and lack of essential food were contributing factors to higher rates of mortality in rural and poor areas.

According to the UNFPA, every day in Laos more than two women die of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.

More than 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned and a number of these will be unwanted. Each unwanted pregnancy multiplies a woman's chance of dying from complications from pregnancy or childbirth.

One in four women aged 15-49 years gives birth before the age of 20.

Meeting the demand for family planning services would be expected to reduce maternal deaths and injuries by more than 25 per cent.-Asia News Network (September 18, 2012)

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