Give women a chance to survive childbirth, Shamsa tells G-20

ABU DHABI - In an appeal to the G-20 published on Friday, Shaikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, wife of Shaikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region, described the number of women dying during childbirth worldwide 
as “unacceptable”.

By (Wam)

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Published: Sun 14 Nov 2010, 12:26 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:59 PM

Shaikha Shamsa, who is also the chairwoman of the Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA), called on the leaders to address the direct causes of maternal death and not to ignore the millions of women who survive childbirth with debilitating trauma such as obstetric fistula.

“It is time for us to take an honest look at what needs to be done,” reads the appeal. “We know that the vast majority of these deaths can be prevented... We have done it before in Europe, America and the Middle East. We must now do it in the African and Asian countries where too many women are still dying to give life.” The appeal called for initiatives to improve women’s access to medical services and strengthen the quality of emergency obstetric care.

“The most effective way to eliminate these deaths is to ensure that women are in the presence of a skilled attendant in a suitably equipped health facility for the delivery,” reads the appeal, which recommended the use of “new telecommunications and transport strategies” to improve women’s access to health facilities. She also called for treatment of women suffering from obstetric fistula and other postpartum trauma which affect millions of women each year.

“Obstetricians, urologists and general surgeons must integrate fistula repair and management of other postpartum complications into general practice,” read the appeal, which also called for the active participation of midwives in the fight against obstetric fistula. “Give women a fighting chance of surviving the delivery of their babies. And ensure that treatment is available for the millions of women who suffer a life-time of misery from childbirth injuries.” Despite an overall reduction in global maternal mortality figures from over 520,000 to 340,000 each year, most countries are still far from achieving the 5th Millennium Development Goal (MDG5) of reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015.

Meanwhile, for every woman who dies, another 20 suffer debilitating postpartum trauma such as obstetric fistula. The World Health Organisation estimates that two million women currently need surgical repair for obstetric fistula, with an additional 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occurring each year.

In response to the unacceptably high maternal mortality and morbidity rates in many parts of Africa and Asia, in 2009 Shaikha Shamsa founded Women and Health Alliance International, a non-profit medical organisation working to improve maternal health in disadvantaged communities.

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