By 2003 the Brazil government enshrined in law that each Brazilian citizen had “[t]he right to … universal, egalitarian access to the actions and services directed towards promotion, protection, and recovery of health (article 196 of the federal Constitution)”. These services are provided though a publicly financed health system that covers maternity care. Participation in the program is mandatory if you are working1.
 
Brazilian_mom_babyIn 2004 the national program to reduce maternal mortality (Pacto Nacional pela Reducao da Mortalidade Materna e Neonatal) drafted national best practices in partnership with various women’s movement organizations to “established strategies for the compliance of the Millenium Development Goals: reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality by 15% by the end of 2006”2.  
 
By 2011 significant progress had been made. Current figures place maternal mortality in Brazil between 56 and 75 deaths per 100,000 live births34. Either rate is a substantial drop from the average between 2003-2008 at 110 deaths per 100,000 births5, and the rate at the turn of the last century of 160 deaths per 100,000 live births6
 
While this progress must be celebrated several concerns have also been noted. Several NGO’s argue that Brazil’s monitoring infrastructure is not sufficient to accurately track maternal morality and that confusing laws mean that many maternal deaths are actually not recorded when they are related to complications that arose during pregnancy. Meaning that some maternal deaths are only record when the mother dies from child birth itself, and not complications arising from being pregnant. This is particularly true in the North, Northeast and Central East regions. “A study published by the Feminist Health Network (2007) demonstrates that poor quality of healthcare in the country is the principal cause of high rates of maternal mortality. According to academics on the topic, for each death due to problems of poor medical care, there is another that is not reported. Thus, to understand the real dimensions of the magnitude of maternal mortality, the registered rates should be should be multiplied by two” (38)”…. The complications arising from pregnancy and from childbirth are the third highest cause of death for adolescents, being only after traffic accidents and homicides, according to a study by the Ministry of Health (2004). And 13% of deaths of young women 15 and 19 years old and 22% of the deaths for the 20 to 24 year old age group are due to causes which are registered as ‘maternal’. Abortion represents 16% of maternal death in women 15 to 24 years old in poorer regions of the country” (34)7.  
 
Progress has been made in the last five years, but there is still concern about the breadth and depth of the national action plan to reduce maternal mortality. The UN CEDAW Committee expressed concern that progress addressing maternal health does not “sufficiently address all causes of maternal mortality as it merely focuses on care services for pregnant women”8. In addition to missing infrastructure and standardized reporting some cultural taboos also affect the maternal mortality rates negatively. According to doctors, Bolivian migrant women are 3-4 times as likely to die due to complication resulting from pregnancy because they often refuse to allow a c-section. According to their indigenous culture women who have c-sections lose perceived femininity and some women have been abandoned by their husbands. “The Municipal Health Secretariat is working to refine its programme, including providing outreach in the Quechua and Aymara languages”9

  1. UN, Brazil: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), 2003) 32 
  2. Brazil Shadow CEDAW, June 2007, pg 38 
  3. World Health Organization, World Health Statistics, Part III, Global Health Indicators, (Published 2012), (Accessed 1 June 2012), http://www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/2012/en/ 
  4. The World Bank, World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2011, 17 September 2012 384, 385 
  5. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report: Gender Inequality Index, UNDP, Table 4, 2010, (Published Day Month, Year), (30 May, 2010),http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2010_EN_Table4_reprint.pdf 
  6. UN, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/ – Reports may be accessed athttp://www.bayefsky.com 2002 4 
  7. Brazil Shadow CEDAW, June 2007, 38, 34 
  8. The United Nations, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Brazil, 11, Published 23 February, 2012,http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws51.htm 
  9. UNFPA, State of the World Population 2006: A Passage to Hope; Women and International Migration, 2006) 37 
 

 

 

  1. UN, Brazil: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), 2003) 32 

  2. Brazil Shadow CEDAW, June 2007, pg 38 

  3. World Health Organization, World Health Statistics, Part III, Global Health Indicators, (Published 2012), (Accessed 1 June 2012), http://www.who.int/gho/publications/world_health_statistics/2012/en/ 

  4. The World Bank, World Development Report: Gender Equality and Development, The World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2011, 17 September 2012 384, 385 

  5. United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report: Gender Inequality Index, UNDP, Table 4, 2010, (Published Day Month, Year), (30 May, 2010),http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2010_EN_Table4_reprint.pdf 

  6. UN, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/ – Reports may be accessed athttp://www.bayefsky.com 2002 4 

  7. Brazil Shadow CEDAW, June 2007, 38, 34 

  8. The United Nations, Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – Brazil, 11, Published 23 February, 2012,http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/cedaws51.htm 

  9. UNFPA, State of the World Population 2006: A Passage to Hope; Women and International Migration, 2006) 37