Help wanted: Skilled birth attendants
Barely half the mothers in developing countries deliver their babies under
the supervision of a physician, nurse or other professional with midwifery
skills, a key factor in ensuring survival of both babies and mothers.
Countries with the lowest rates of professionally attended births also
share some of the world’s worst maternal mortality rates. Of the 38 countries
listed, nearly two thirds have rates of at least 900 maternal deaths per
100,000 live births. Somalia, the country with the lowest percentage of
professionally attended births (2%), has a maternal mortality rate of 1,600
per 100,000 births. Next on the chart are Afghanistan and Nepal, both with
9% of births attended by a skilled professional and with maternal death
rates of 1,700 and 1,500, respectively.
Many of these countries suffer from the common burdens of poverty and
war. Despite poverty, though, some countries are making progress. Thirteen
nations with per capita GNP of less than $500 have managed to achieve rates
of 50% or more of births attended by skilled professionals.
History has shown that the presence of skilled birth attendants is a
key factor in bringing down the number of maternal deaths. Of the 46 countries
in which trained professionals attend 90% or more of births, only 5 have
maternal deaths rates above 100 per 100,000 live births. In the industrialized
countries, 99% of births are professionally attended.
|The use of skilled birth attendants (doctors, nurses
and midwives) helps reduce the risk of death from pregnancy and childbirth