Maternal deaths in Rwanda have declined 77 per cent since 1990, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation.
Rwanda has met the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5) of reducing the number of women who die during pregnancy, or shortly after giving birth, by three-quarters.
Target Five A of MDGs seeks to reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
In 2013, the country had 320 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In 1990, the benchmark year for measuring progress, there were 1,400 maternal deaths.
The WHO acknowledged the efforts government had made to improve maternal health in the country.
“Rwanda deployed community health workers and volunteers to address immediate, urgent health needs,” the report said. “At the same time, the country invested in its long-term vision to build a professional health workforce.”
The WHO also highlighted the efforts made to keep colleges open and bring in foreign professionals to ensure students would be trained in maternal healthcare.
Nathan Mugume, the head of communication division at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said improved healthcare and better education of expecting mothers had helped lower the number of maternal deaths in the country.
He added that the roll out and equipment of health centres countrywide was another key factor.
This past year, government spent Rwf3.7 billion on maternal health.
Mugume emphasised the role of community health workers in treating patients in their locality.
Maternal and infant mortality
The ongoing 1,000 Days Campaign is a public education initiative focusing on the time period from when a woman gets pregnant until the baby is two years old. Community health workers educate women on how to care for their baby as well as themselves.
“We encourage patients to practice exclusively breastfeeding, practice hygiene,” Mugume said.
He said maternal and infant mortality (of children Under Five) are related.
“You can’t improve the life of the mothers and leave the children. Usually, when you improve the mother, the child will be better as well,” Mugume said.
Improving the lives of mothers and their children also involves engaging the fathers, he added. Fathers need to be educated on proper nutrition and hygiene because they have a big role to play in the development of a child.
WHO considers less than 100 deaths per 100,000 to be a low maternal death ratio. Rwanda is well ahead of other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Last year, 510 women per 100,000 died during pregnancy or within 45 days of the end of their pregnancy in the region.
The deadline for the MDGs is set for next year.