October 13, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
The UNICEF, along with several other global aid organisations has been striving endlessly to reduce maternal deaths in impoverished countries. They have put several measures in place to achieve their goals but for these measures to be successful, what they need are more trained professionals across several specialties including midwives, nurses, obstetricians, maternity nurses, surgeons, general physicians and gynaecologists.
Here’s an overview of what the UNICEF is doing to improve maternal health around the world.
30% of women aged between 15 and 40 in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia do not have access to any kind of antenatal care. This lack of antenatal care can result in malnutrition as well as untreated hypertensive disorders, which could lead to death and disability. More than 100,000 maternal deaths every year are associated with iron deficiency related anaemia in pregnant women. Some 17% of infants in developing countries are born with low birth weight and these babies are 20 times more likely to die before they are two years old. Tetanus is another major killer that results from unsafe and unhygienic childbirth delivery practices.
UNICEF helps local communities raise awareness by educating women and their families on the importance of birth spacing, on improving the nutrition of pregnant women to prevent low birth weight and on recognising the signs of pregnancy related complications.
The organisation has also put in place effective community programmes that promote anti-malarial therapy and insecticide-treated bed nets along with buying and providing tetanus immunisations for pregnant women. They also provide micronutrients to stave off birth defects and anaemia – all of which lead to healthier mothers and babies.
All research points to the fact that the single most important intervention for safe motherhood is to make sure that a trained provider with midwifery skills is present at every birth and that quality emergency obstetric care is available. However, almost 50% of births in resource poor countries take place without a skilled birth attendant.
The UNICEF is working together with the World Health Organisation WHO, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other partners to put in place measures to ensure better maternal, newborn and child health in countries with high maternal mortality. These measures include deploying trained staff as well as training local staff and educating local communities.
In addition to distributing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to young women and parents with HIV/AIDS, the UNICEF also provides voluntary and confidential counselling and testing for HIV/AIDS. Expectant mothers who have the virus or AIDS are counselled on how to help prevent transmission of the disease to their children. This includes teaching them safer breastfeeding practices.
Since the UNICEF first embarked upon their endeavour to improve maternal health, they have made tremendous progress with notable results in the area of maternal death. Still much remains to be done and the need for more trained professionals cannot be emphasised enough.