Wednesday, 2 May 2007

One in fifty births end in the mother’s death

That’s what happens in Sierra Leone. It’s an almost unbelievable number, about 200 times higher than it would be in a developed country. To put it another way, a woman has a one in six chance of dying in childbirth. And then, one in six babies die.

There are several different reasons for these awful figures, but one of the factors is female circumcision which is almost universal in Sierra Leone. Other issues are the use of traditional medicine which can be hazardous; the cost of healthcare where many live in poverty (in spite of the country being gold and diamond rich); lack of skilled personnel; lack of equipment.

The only country lower on the UN’s Development Index is Niger.

Full report from IRIN.


  1. I'm curious to know how FGM has impact on childbirth outcome like this. When i first read this, it came across as a startling reflection of reality masked by modern medicine here. How medical intervention, caesarean births even (where many can now get angry about the damage/problems it can cause) - can also save lives. While it's a sad statistic, i find peace in it because of how it gives insight on just how potentially life-ending a process like childbirth can really be.

    It's something which can be taken for granted in a developed world with a much higher mortality rate. It's clear I had complacency by an illusion of false security, that a process of childbirth doesn't come paired with much higher levels of possible things that CAN go wrong during delivery because i assumed that medicine would've "just taken care of it" for me (and didn't).

    It would be really interesting to know what the social structure is like in this country when it comes to post-birth support for women.

  2. Of course Sierra Leone has really only relatively recently come out of civil war. And it is a severely impoverished nation.

    From a recent IRIN report: "Of the country’s some six million people, nearly 2.5 million have no access to clean water and even fewer have access to electricity. An estimated 1.5 million live in extreme poverty and at least 4.8 million are jobless. Basic health care remains unavailable to most people. The average life expectancy is just 40 years."

    I read recently that where the mother dies, there is a greatly increased likelihood that the child will die before it reaches two years old. Unfortunately I forget where I read it.

    The impact of FGM stems from the scarring that occurs and and is very much more of a problem if Type III (infibulation) has been performed. The scarring reduces the elasticity of the vagina, leading to tears and further scarring. This in turn can cause obstruction during childbirth and resulting in the development of fistulas; tearing of the vaginal and/or bladder wall;
    and/or chronic incontinence. So with the limited health coverage, complications can very easily be life-threatening.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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