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Call for action on mums dying in childbirth

Tragically, in countries like Sierra Leone, 1 mother in 8 dies in childbirth, leaving thousands of babies to grow up without their mothers' love and care. The death rate in Chad is revealed to be 1,500 per 100,000 births.

In fact, pregnant women in developing countries face the same risk of death as women in the UK did 100 years ago, say campaigners using International Women's Day today to call for more action to reduce the number of women dying during pregnancy. Today, a march on the Millennium Bridge in central London kicks off a week of events to highlight the issue. And celebrities will lay white roses outside Parliament on Friday to urge ministers to act. The campaign groups, which include White Ribbon Alliance, Amnesty International and Oxfam, and Mumsnet say that improving mothers' health is "the most off-target" of the United Nation’s eight Millennium Development Goals.  “In the UK, dying in childbirth is almost a thing of the past. It’s a complete scandal that, for most women in the world, nothing much has changed,” said Brigid McConville of the White Ribbon Alliance. “Every minute, a woman dies needlessly in childbirth; that’s more than half a million women lost each year and almost always their baby will die too.”

A lot of the medical problems these women die from can easily be prevented if, for example, women have access to skilled health workers who can treat infections and use drugs to prevent haemorrhage. The Millennium Development Goal to cut maternal deaths also aims to prevent deaths from complications after unsafe abortions and allowing women access to contraception, to prevent riskier births in teenage mothers and to allow them to space out having their children. Some countries have already managed to improve on women's health. Mongolia lowered its maternal death rate by educating women about the signs of complications in pregnancy and by helping them travel to special homes where they could wait to give birth.“It's clearly been possible to cut back on the rate of maternal deaths here in the UK,” said
Amnesty International's UK director Kate Allen. "We need to demonstrate that same level of commitment worldwide. The current situation is unacceptable. Pregnant women should not be denied their basic rights to healthcare. "There needs to be a greater political will both in the UK and globally to put an end to this scandal.”

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children