CAIRO: Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) in Egypt decreased almost 70 percent, from 174 deaths per 100,000 life births in 1992 to 55 in 2008, a study revealed this week.
Reducing MMR by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 is one of the UN Millennium Goals, but according to the study, only 23 countries are currently on the track to achieve this.
The newly published study revealed that maternal mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly 35 percent between 1980 and 2008; there were 342,900 maternal deaths in 2008, compared to 526,300 in 1980.
The study, conducted in 181 countries, was led by a group of researchers from the Health Institute at the University of Washington.
“Finding out why a country such as Egypt has had such enormous success in driving down the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes could enable us to export that success to countries that have been lagging behind, Dr Christopher Murray, who led the study, said.
Dr Ramez Mahaini, WHO reproductive health regional adviser, told Daily News Egypt, “In 1992, a study revealed that the MMR in Egypt was at 174, a very high rate. The Ministry of Health then made a request to the WHO to analyze the reasons behind this rate and to develop a strategy to reduce it.
“In 1996, we started a pilot project in Upper Egypt that was generalized after it gave positive signs. In 2000, a further study showed that the MMR had decreased by over 50 percent because of the successful implementation of the maternal mortality monitoring system, he continued.
“Maternal death is easily avoidable: You can avoid 80 percent of maternal deaths through awareness rising, family planning programs and skilled birth care, Mahaini said.
The monitoring system showed that “high-risk pregnancy results essentially from four reasons: too early or too late pregnancies (before 16 or after 38), too frequent pregnancies (more than five children) and too close intervals (less than 2 years), he explained.
“Thanks to our awareness campaigns in the villages, the Dayah [midwife] nearly disappeared. People do not any more rely on them and instead go to doctors to do the follow up of the pregnancy, which is much safer, Abdel Rahman Shahin, health ministry spokesperson, told Daily News Egypt.
Shahin added that over 13,000 people, mostly young and educated, volunteer in family planning centers to spread awareness.
He explained that the media also plays a very important role in such campaigns.
“If you reduce one maternal death, you can reduce 10 child deaths, because the mother is the cornerstone of the family. That’s why it’s important and even economically profitable to invest in it, Mahaini said, nonetheless regretting that “people donate for sexy issues like AIDS or the bird flu, but mother health is not sexy any more.
Despite a worldwide reduction of maternal mortality, the study also brought some bad news: More than 61,000 maternal deaths in 2008 were due only to HIV and more than 50 percent of all maternal deaths in the same year occurred in only six countries – India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.