THE Government has confirmed that it will not be able to reduce the country's maternal mortality rate to 25 per 100,000 live births in keeping with the 2015 millennium development goal (MDG), despite the best efforts of health officials.
The announcement was made by Minister with responsibility for Information, Sandrea Falconer, during Jamaica's presentation before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at the UN Commission in New York recently. Jamaica's current maternal mortality rate stands at 78 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Falconer pointed out that despite 91 per cent of pregnant women in Jamaica receiving quality antenatal care at least once during pregnancy, and although approximately 97 per cent of births are delivered by skilled personnel, high levels of maternal mortality continue to exist.
"Among the contributing factors are lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, followed by haemorrhage, embolism, and unsafe abortions which account for half of all maternal deaths. Indirect causes such as cardiac diseases, increasing cases of HIV/AIDS, and violence accounted for the remainder," she said.
In May of this year, the Government promised to redouble its efforts to reduce maternal mortality to a rate of 36 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015. It promised to achieve this goal by improving access to health services and benefits, improving surveillance, public education, and quality of care. A National Maternal Mortality Review Committee is also expected to be re-established with the aim of strengthening policies aimed at improving maternal health among women.
Jamaica was one of 147 countries that in 2001 endorsed MDGs Four and Five to reduce infant and maternal mortality by two-thirds and three-quarters respectively by 2015. However, Jamaica was singled out by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) regional advisor on sexual and reproductive health, Alma Camcho, as one of nine Caribbean and Latin American countries that are way above the MDG maternal mortality estimates.
Assistant representative at the UNFPA, Melissa McNeil-Barrett, pointed out during a recent Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange forum that the country could see further improvement by tackling non-communicable diseases.
"In the past few years, the causes of maternal death and morbidity have been linked to hypertension, diabetes and so on being developed during pregnancy," she said, pointing out that more awareness needs to be created of these diseases.