In South Asia, a woman dies every three minutes from complications in pregnancy and childbirth – not just because of poverty, but because of an absence of priority.
These 200,000 deaths do not include women who die on the way to health facilities or at home, or whose deaths are never registered. For every woman who dies another 30 experience complications resulting in permanent disabilities and debilitating conditions. Every year 29,000 women die from unsafe, often illegal abortions in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Gender discrimination is a huge problem in South Asia. From birth women are given a lesser share of food, a larger share of work, and little or no say in their own health care. This combination of factors contributes greatly to the high maternal mortality rate in South Asia.
In most South Asian countries, the great majority of births occur at home, especially in rural areas, and families and communities are not well prepared to quickly make decisions to seek care for mothers with obstetric complications, and often they lack the resources to arrange transportation in a timely manner.
Lack of adequate resources and knowledge not only results in preventable maternal deaths but severely impacts children who are left motherless. Some studies suggest that these children are 10 times more likely than their peers to die within two years of their mothers’ death. They and the 2.3 million infants in South Asia who die each year can be saved along with their mothers if obstetric care is given a higher priority.