Maternal Mortality Rates Settle Into Relatively High Pattern
This Central African country has experienced a general level of political stability over the last decades, and the overall positive situation for women and mothers shows the relation between peace and health service provision. With a maternal mortality ratio of 230 per 100,000 live births, figures for women are much better in Gabon as compared to neighboring nations. However, this ratio has seen hardly any improvement since 1990, indicating that the country has settled into a status quo in terms of health service provision ((WHO)). Furthermore, there is gross inequity in care for Gabon’s mothers: poorer women are still highly disadvantaged as compared to wealthier quintiles, with less than 40% of poor women receiving skilled attendance at birth, as compared to nearly 100% of wealthy women ((“Countdown to 2015: Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival” 2012)).
With nearly half of all health expenditure in Gabon coming from patients’ out-of-pocket fees, those economically disadvantaged sectors of society are clearly excluded from receiving quality care. While the nation is privileged with an abundance of natural resources, rates of poverty remain high, so there remains a large number of women on the social periphery who have not benefitted from the peaceful proliferation of social services. Besides socioeconomic factors, age is also a clear determinant of maternal health in Gabon: HIV rates are especially high among younger women, with an overall adult prevalence rate of 6%. Over a quarter of all maternal deaths are due to HIV, showing a disproportionate burden of mortality among young women ((“The State of the World’s Midwifery,” 2011)).
The situation for women in Gabon is much better than in neighboring nations like Congo and Cameroon. With a mostly urban population, the challenges to providing services are more straightforward than those faced by its neighbors, but it’s critical that the nation prioritizes equity of care. Existing services must be made accessible for those who are socially disadvantaged. All mothers must benefit from the services of skilled midwives, nurses, and obstetricians, not just the wealthy and privileged.