Nearly half of all maternal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa 1, and life for mothers in Angola is particularly tragic with a life time risk of death due to child birth ranging from 1 in 7 2 to 1 in 12 [1.UNIFEC – ibid]. Most women will have between 6 and 7 children in their life time 3 increasing the risk dramatically per woman. No other country in Africa has a higher maternal mortality rate than Angola and only one (Somalia) ties it for the dubious position of highest maternal death rates in Africa.
Since 1986 the Ministry of Health has attempted to address the high rate of maternal deaths, but very little progress has been made 4. Depending on the accuracy of the sources of information it is possible that things have even gotten worse.
The primary problem that faces the governments ability to address the maternal mortality rate is funding and infrastructure. This is not something that is likely to be fixed any time soon. However there are a significant number of actions that can be implemented with relative ease and in a very short period of time.
Sanitation is a major source of infection that leaders to child and maternal death. Projects building safe water wells near rural populations would be extremely helpful. Education, both of the mother and midwives is also critical. Experience is important, but even a newly trained midwife will be able to do more to protect the mother than nothing at all. Training programs would require some investment, but most of the equipment that is required by a midwife can be carried in 1 or 2 bag, and can be easily deployed in rural areas.
It has been noted that in developing regions of the world the single greatest factor impacting the future development and success of a child and then the community is the overall health and education of the mother. She will do more to protect the children and ensure they have the resources they need than anything the government will do directly.
This does not minimize the impact that the government can have (positive or negative), or the realities of the AIDS epidemic that has devastated so many families and places additional stresses on mothers, the high fertility rate etc. These structural concerns and cultural legacies are extremely important to address over the long term. But is is also important to remember that Angola does not need to solve its debt crisis, or corruption, or infrastructure problems in order to have an enormous impact on maternal mortality rates in just a few years. More than anything they only need to employ one of their greatest resources which are the mothers and women in their communities.