Source: ReliefWeb
Up to ¾ of maternal deaths could be avoided by enabling access to emergency obstetric care, says MSF. Mothers’ lives can be saved for less than the cost of a loaf of supermarket bread.

Up to 74 percent of women’s deaths during childbirth could be averted by providing ambulances and 24-hour emergency obstetric care, according to encouraging new research in Sierra Leone and Burundi by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

MSF’s report “Safe Delivery: Reducing maternal mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi”, published today, indicates that the simple and cost-effective measures of providing an ambulance referral system together with 24-hour emergency obstetric services can drastically and quickly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy-related complications.

“You do not need state of the art facilities or equipment to save many women’s lives” said Vincent Lambert, MSF’s Medical Advisor for projects in Burundi. The total operating cost of MSF’s programme in the district of Bo, Sierra Leone is equivalent to spending just £1.21 for each person in the district – less than the price of a supermarket loaf of bread[1].

Some 15 percent of all women – irrespective of where in the world they live – develop complications in childbirth that are potentially life-threatening, yet 99 percent of the 287,000 maternal deaths each year occur in the developing world, where access to emergency obstetric care is often limited. Maternal mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi is among the worst in the world.

The MSF data from 2011 indicate that maternal mortality in Burundi’s Kabezi district has fallen to 208 per 100,000 live births, compared to a national average of 800 per 100,000 live births[2] – a 74 percent reduction. For the same year, in Sierra Leone, MSF figures indicate that maternal mortality in Bo district has decreased to 351 per 100,000 live births, compared to 890 per 100,000 in the rest of the country – a 61 percent reduction. By contrast, the UK maternal mortality rate is 8.6 per 100,000.

As a result of MSF’s programme in Kabezi, the 2025 Millenium Development Goal – to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent compared to the national ratio in 1990 – has already been reached, four years ahead of schedule. In Bo district, MSF is on track to achieve this result and is confident that it will be met by 2015.

“MSF’s experience can serve as an encouraging example for donors, governments and other NGOs who are considering investing in the improvement of access to emergency obstetric care in countries with a high maternal mortality rate,” said Lambert.

A fact sheet is attached. For photos, interviews or more information, please contact Sandra Smiley, MSF UK Press Officer, on +44 7889 178 472.


MSF has been providing access to emergency obstetric care services in Burundi since 2006 and in Sierra Leone since 2008.

Some 287,000 women worldwide die each year giving birth, leaving behind children who – as a result of their mothers’ deaths – are ten times more likely to die prematurely.




[1] Eg Hovis white bread, 800gm at Sainsburys = £1.35 (price online, 16 November 2012)


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