Safe Delivery: Reducing maternal mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi
Ensuring pregnant women have timely access to emergency obstetric care has reduced maternal deaths by as much as 74 percent in parts of two African countries
The comprehensive emergency obstetric services at MSF hospitals in Bo and Kabezi is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All services are free of charge. The total annual operating costs of the programs are equivalent to just under two dollars per person in Bo and $4.15 per person in Kabezi.
MSF’s data indicate that maternal mortality in Burundi’s Kabezi district has fallen to 208 per 100,000 live births, compared to a national average of 800 per 100,000 live births, a 74 percent decrease. In Sierra Leone, MSF figures for the same year indicate that maternal mortality in Bo district has decreased to 351 per 100,000 live births, compared to 890 per 100,000 in the rest of the country, a 61 percent reduction. MSF is the only emergency obstetric care provider in Kabezi and Bo.
Sierra Leone and Burundi both suffer from extremely high maternal mortality rates due to lack of access to quality antenatal and obstetric care, which are linked to shortages of qualified health staff, a lack of medical facilities, and health systems that have been shattered by years of civil war.
“Giving birth in Sierra Leone is often a life-threatening endeavor for many women,” said Betty Raney, an obstetrician with MSF in Sierra Leone. “In my 25 years as an obstetrician, I have never seen such a level of severity among the patients. Had they not had any access to care, many of them would die.”
Using the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015 as a point of reference, MSF’s estimates indicate that the maternal mortality ratio in Kabezi is already below the MDG level. MSF is confident that the mortality ratio will have dropped by 75 percent in Bo by 2015.