Updated 10 October 2016

SA maternal mortality rate increases

South Africa is not on track to meet development goals to reduce its maternal mortality ratio, a report says.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says each year thousands of women in South Africa die before, during or soon after childbirth.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question he cited figures from the independent Expert Review Group (iERG) 2013 report titled "Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health".

Motsoaledi said: "According to [this report], South Africa's maternal mortality ratio for 2010 was 300 per 100 000 live births."

He was responding to a question posed by Democratic Alliance MP Patricia Kopane, who had asked him to provide the "latest" maternal mortality figures.

The iErg forms part of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the specialised agency of the United Nations that is concerned with public health matters.

According to Statistics SA, nearly 1.3 million births were registered in the country in 2010.

If this is used as a basis to extrapolate from the 300 per 100 000 cited by Motsoaledi, then well over 3 800 South African women died in that year, either as a result of their pregnancy or during or after childbirth.

Health care

The WHO defines maternal death as "the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy".

According to the report, South Africa is not among those countries "on track" to meet the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing its maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015.

It also shows the country's maternal mortality rate is higher than several of its neighbours, including Botswana (160 per 100 000) and Madagascar (240 per 100 000), but a good deal lower than Zimbabwe (570 per 100 000) and Lesotho (620 per 100 000).

The report finds that the failure to make more rapid progress in reducing maternal mortality rates in the 75 countries it measures "is the most serious wound on the body of global health".

It says many reasons are offered as mitigation for this.

"But the underlying cause of failure is that development partners have simply not been sufficiently interested in strengthening the systems of health care that women need during pregnancy and childbirth."

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