Maternal health is a huge problem in Africa, with 50 percent of maternal deaths happening on the continent. African woman are a staggering 100 times more likely to die during childbirth than elsewhere, with around one and a half thousand of such cases every day.
One of the main causes for these tragic statistics is the lack of adequate facilities. Hospitals can be few and far between in some areas, and the hospitals there are often do not have enough trained midwives, meaning the care is not of the same standard expected elsewhere in the world. This is compounded by some of the best doctors moving to other countries where salaries are better. There is also a lack of up-to-date equipment and drugs. Many pregnant women are forced to walk many miles to a hospital, which contributes towards only 20 per cent of births taking place in hospitals.
Around 50 percent of births happen at home, and unlike elsewhere these usually do not include the help of fully qualified midwives. As well as those outlined above, one reason for this is the cost. A hospital birth usually costs around $6, which goes up to $15 if a cesarean is required. Traditional birth attendants often help with home birth but they are not qualified. They do though only cost around $2. Many more maternal health problems arise at home births in comparison with those at hospitals. Local clinics account for 30 per cent of births in Africa. The mortality rate here is also much higher than hospitals, partly because they are insufficiently equipped to deal with complications such as cesareans.
There are significantly more births in Africa than on any other continent. With women typically having more children, it multiplies the risk of maternal health problems. Part of the reason for more births is the child mortality rate, due to epidemics such as aids, malaria and starvation, and the lack of contraception. Because so many children die, people tend to have more children to increase the chances of some reaching adulthood.
Aids is another massive problem. The lack of availability of education about contraception is one of the reasons for this. Even where there is availability it is not affordable for all. If a mother has Aids or HIV during pregnancy this will get passed onto her children. Many Mothers die from Aids leaving their children Motherless, and if their Fathers have also succumbed to the decease, as often happens, then Brothers and Sisters can be left to look after themselves. This causes all sorts of social issues, and further increases the changes of starvation.
Lack of education around the whole subject of family planning means there are more pregnancies not just for adults, but also for young girls. This results in many becoming pregnant young before their bodies are able to fully cope with giving birth, meaning yet more maternal health issues.