Stumped: Any Thoughts on This?

For the past few weeks, I have been coding the 2007 Gender, Poverty and Environmental indicators on African countries report published by the African Development Bank. This report is full of statistics on various development indicators for each African nation. Though the nations of Africa seem to be progressing (albeit slowly) in certain areas such as education, other areas are remaining stable or, in the case of maternal mortality rates, worsening. The report states, “The Millennium Development goal of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters seems ambitious for Africa. Recent estimates continue to indicate that the highest ratios of maternal mortality are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an average of 920 deaths out of 100,000 live births and there is no evidence that the ratios are declining”. In fact, maternal mortality rates have actually increased in 21 out of the 52 nations of Africa over the past decade. On the other hand, almost every African nation saw a decrease in infant mortality rates (0-1) over the same period (only 2 nations saw an increase). While I am delighted that infant mortality rates are decreasing in Africa, I am confused as to why there is a divergence between these two rates, when it seems as if infant and maternal mortality rates should go hand-in-hand (because the causes of both (such as poor nutrition and medical care) are similar).

The report does not discuss this divergence, so I open it up to all of you. First of all, why do you think this divergence is occurring? Also, why is it that one of the most easily preventable causes of death in lesser developed countries is so commonly overlooked?

Here are a few other statistics to illustrate the extent of the problem in Sub-Saharan Africa:

  • 1) In 1996 the maternal mortality rate in Angola was 1300. In 2004 the rate had increased to 1850 (a 42% increase). On the other hand, infant mortality rates decreased from 157 deaths per 1000 to 137.
  • 2) “Lifetime risk of maternal death” accounts for number of pregnancies and risk. In sub-Saharan Africa the lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 16. For developed nations, on the other hand the lifetime risk is only 1 in 2,800 (WHO).
  • 3) Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rates at 2,000 deaths per 100,000 live births

—by TS

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