Every minute of every day, a woman dies from pregnancy related complications. Of the more than 500,000 women who die during pregnancy or childbirth, 90 per cent of them are from Africa and Asia.
Majority of women are dying from severe bleeding, infections, eclampsia, obstructed labour and the consequences of unsafe abortions.
In Rwanda the number of women accessing antenatal care – critical for reducing maternal mortality has been increasing, it is currently at 96 percent according to 2007-08 interim Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).
Most women seek antenatal care relatively late increasing their vulnerability to complications during pregnancy and at child birth.
Yet to be effective, antenatal care must be sought early in pregnancy and more importantly, must continue umtil delivery.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least four antennal care visits at regular intervals throughout pregnancy.
Monitoring pregnant women through antenatal care visits helps reduce risks and complications during pregnancy and delivery.
However, it is shocking to discover that medical officials in the country largely ignore this by not giving information to women about the signs of pregnancy complications.
Failure to provide information, services and conditions not only puts women’s lives at risk but also constitutes gender-based discrimination and a violation of women’s rights to health and life.
One wonders why medical workers who are trained to recognize problems early, when the situation can still be controlled, to intervene and manage the complication, or to stabilize the condition and are supposed refer the patient to a higher level of care, if needed, rarely do this.
Skilled attendance at birth is vital to protecting the health of newborns: the majority deaths occur during labour and delivery or within the first 48 hours after delivery.
Some women may clearly be at risk of complications, such as, those that are too young and immature, or those having severe health conditions.
Such women need immediate medical attention before they go into labour, in order to anticipate and manage obstetric complications.
Frustratingly, most people do not even understand the importance of maternal health. Children whose mothers are in poor health are less likely to receive education or healthcare. Babies who have lost their mothers are more likely to die too.
Skilled attendance at all births is considered to be the single most critical intervention for ensuring safe motherhood.
Medical workers should step up the quality of service they provide to save lives of women. On the other hand they also need facilitation from government.
This can mean upgrading district level clinics, providing waiting homes for women in remote rural areas, or setting up clinics that are easily accessible by women.
Conversely, the Ministry of Health is set to forward the draft law on patient rights to the Ministry of Justice this month.
Under the provisions of the draft law patients will be able to legally claim any practice against their rights including improper handling or treatment by health workers.