Community Law Centre focuses on maternal health issues

Maternal death remains a great challenge in many developing countries including South Africa. Despite the fact that South Africa is one of the most industrialised and prosperous countries in Africa, the government has been unable to address the high maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. In line with this, Community Law Centre, Department of public health of the University of the Western Cape and Amnesty International held a two day workshop on maternal health.

 The meeting had several objectives which were;
• To share and discuss the research findings on maternal health conducted by; Amnesty International, Community law Centre and the Department of Public Health, University of the Western Cape.
• To identify recommendations and pick out the top issues to focus on while doing advocacy with the Government representatives and policy makers.
• To discuss the need for a maternal health network? And if it was needed what would be its composition?
• To hold a round table meeting with policy makers including a member on the committee on health in Parliament, a representative from (EFF,DA and ANC)
• To chart a method to be used to bring out issues to during the round table meeting.

The workshop was aimed at examining the causes of maternal deaths in South Africa. The information that will be gathered from the focus group discussions will be included in a research report that will be submitted to decision-makers such as the national and provincial departments of health and parliamentary portfolio committees.

A report by the Department of Health shows that maternal deaths in the country has quadrupled in recent years from only 150 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 625 in 2007.Alarmingly, the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth, particularly in rural areas and poor provinces such as the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, has increased in the past few years.

Furthermore, recent studies have shown that maternal deaths in wealthy provinces such as Gauteng are on the increase. Despite the large amount of resources committed by the government to address maternal mortality, the number of women dying from pregnancy-related complications has increased.

The event follows focus group discussions that took place in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces earlier this year. These were conducted with stakeholders including civil society groups, health care providers and women and health care managers and government officials. The purpose of focus group discussions is to gather information about the current South African policies on maternal mortality and women’s reproductive health and rights with particular reference to Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces.

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