Census data released yesterday showed that about 2,800 women in Myanmar die each year in childbirth or during pregnancy, underlining the need for better maternity care and family planning.
Put into sobering perspective, the statistics show that one in five deaths among young women in Myanmar is a maternal death.
“We need to put more effort into providing access to better health care services for pregnant women, both during pregnancy and after childbirth,” said U Myint Kyaing, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population. The Permanent Secretary made his remarks yesterday at a ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw to launch the first set of thematic analysis reports compiled from 2014 census data.
“The government is starting a programme to respond to maternal deaths with the assistance of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and providing training to health staff,” he added.
“The findings reveal the suffering of women and the anguish of the surviving families. A significant decline in maternal mortality rates could be achieved if women had the choice to give birth to fewer children”, says Janet E. Jackson, the UNFPA Representative for Myanmar. At 282 per 100,000 live births, Myanmar’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is the second-highest among ASEAN countries. Every day, eight women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy, childbirth and care in the early weeks after birth. The findings come from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Thematic Report on Maternal Mortality.
The most important factors contributing to maternal mortality are isolation and deprivation, the report said. Maternal mortality is higher among poor and uneducated women who have limited ability to recognise pregnancy complications and to access care. The MMR differs between states and regions. It is significantly lower in urban areas and for women who give birth in a facility that can provide basic and emergency obstetric care. Most maternal deaths are caused by treatable conditions such as bleeding and infection.
Fertility also plays an important role. Mortality is higher among women who give birth frequently; among very young women, whose bodies are not ready for childbirth and among women over 40. Women over 45 are four times more likely to die in childbirth. But age itself is not the only factor. Early, late and frequent pregnancies indicate social and economic disadvantages that hinder access to contraception and reproductive health information. The findings show that maternal health care does not reach everyone. The report calls for policies and interventions that support safe motherhood, especially in deprived communities and in remote areas.
To reduce maternal death, the Government of Myanmar, with the support of UNFPA and WHO, is launching the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response action programme. Training of health staff is already underway. Mandatory recording of maternal deaths will start in December.
“Each maternal death is a tragedy. Each maternal death has a story to tell. This is the tool that will ensure that every maternal death is counted. Once we know the true magnitude of maternal mortality and its causes, the Myanmar health system will be more able to employ practical ways to address its causes”, said Janet E. Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.
Regarding the infant mortality rate, the report showed that the infant mortality rate has declined in Myanmar for three decades. However, the rate is still high when compared with other ASEAN countries.
“It’s found that the infant and adult mortality rate are still high in Ayeyawady Region, Magway Region and Chin State compared with other regions and states. Surveys need to be conducted on infant and adult mortality rates there to know whether the findings in the census are correct,” said U Myint Kyaing.—GNLM