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Jamaica to miss UN maternal mortality target

IDB experts say MDGs out of reach for Caribbean countries

BY PETULIA CLARKE All Woman editor clarkep@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 04, 2012    

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA — Neither Jamaica nor the rest of the countries in the Caribbean and Latin America will meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for maternal mortality.

Andrew Morrison, Chief of the Gender and Diversity Division, Social Sector Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said it will take a miracle for these countries to meet the MDGs, which aim to reduce by three quarters, by 2015, the rate of women who die while giving birth.

The maternal mortality rate is calculated as the rate of maternal deaths for every 100,000 births.

According to UNICEF, 91 per cent of pregnant women in Jamaica receive quality antenatal care at least once during pregnancy, and about 97 per cent of births are delivered by skilled personnel. Yet, the country's maternal mortality rate as at 2009 was 95 deaths per 100,000 live births, a situation that has not changed significantly over the last two decades.

The country has made good progress in eight out of the 14 MDG targets for 2015, said a 2009 national report on Jamaica for the UN Economic and Social Council.

Jamaica has already achieved the targeted reduction in absolute poverty, malnutrition, hunger, and universal primary enrolment. The country is also on track for combating HIV/AIDS, halting and reversing the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis, access to reproductive health, and provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

But lagging is gender equality and environmental sustainability, and the country is far behind in child and maternal mortality targets.

Speaking on the topic 'Gender and Development at the IDB', Morrison, who was addressing a group of Caribbean journalists at the IDB in Washington, DC, last Tuesday, said everywhere in the region, poor women are more likely to give birth.

Eighteen per cent of kids are born to adolescent moms, and teen childbearing is one of the most pressing issues in the region, with Haiti and Guyana having the lowest levels compared to everywhere else where the rates are high for the income levels.

"Teen motherhood/pregnancy is especially pronounced among the poor and disadvantaged," Morrison said.

And though there has been some progress in poverty and inequality in the region, the Latin American group is still the most unequal region in the world.

Regarding violence against women, Morrison said the IDB is devoting increasing resources to fight it.

The IDB is the largest multilateral lender in the Caribbean and Latin America and last year gave $10.8 billion in loans to the region.

For the IDB, Morrison said violence against women is an economic development issue with a productivity impact so it's an issue that should matter to finance ministers in the region.

Violence against women is endemic in the Caribbean and the rest of the world, a problem that he said required investment in women's empowerment and gender equality.

Gender equality, the IDB believes, will contribute to poverty reduction; contribute to per capita income growth; result in higher levels of human capital for future generations; and improve the effectiveness of public investments.

The journalists were attending a seven-day reporting tour on women's empowerment and combating domestic violence in Washington, DC, and Atlanta. The tour was organised by the US State Department's Foreign Press Centre for the journalists to learn US foreign policy on the issues of gender and domestic violence.

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