TOO MANY PNG WOMEN DIE IN CHILDBIRTH

Editorial

PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 16, 2008) – There are two scandals wrapped up in the statement by Medical Society president Mathias Sapuri yesterday about women dying when giving birth.

First and foremost is the revelation that 2,600 of our women are dying as or soon after they give birth to human life . . . every year!

This makes this category of death worse than all the generally feared causes of death in Papua New Guinea, worse than HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and cancers of various types.

All of those diseases affect men and women, boys and girls.

But not maternal deaths, they by their very nature are focused entirely on women. Half of our population is bearing the entire burden of this one cause of deaths, the greatest cause of deaths in our nation.

It is entirely appropriate that the society has written an official plea for help and addressed it to the Prime Minister. That is because the second scandal in this issue is what has been revealed by the current Health Minister Sasa Zibe, that the health bureaucracy is not moving. He says the Government has allocated K200[US$78.3 million] million to the department which is not being used.

So we have a world-ranking disgrace in maternal deaths and the government agency charged with controlling or improving that situation is "not moving’’.

Minister Zibe wants the medical people, doctors, to come up with a strategy to rectify the situation to convey to the politicians. He also grieves that our doctors do not want to work in the rural areas, where most mothers are dying. The facts speak for themselves: We are the worst in maternal deaths in the Pacific, far and away the worst with 870 such deaths per 100,000 live births. Compare us with neighbours in the Solomons where it is 500 and in Fiji, only 50 such deaths per 100,000 live births! The figures show that we have gone backward and badly. In 1996, only 12 years ago, our dreadful maternal mortality rate was 370 per 100,000.

So our women are at far greater risk of dying in childbirth than their mothers were at the attainment of our Independence in 1975. What a shameful admission! But of course most people in the rural areas are aware of the degradation of our health services. They endure.

But the mothers of our current generation are not enduring, they are dying much more frequently than they should. This is something that the Government should take on as a direly important cause, cut through the bureaucratic fogging and get doctors and nurses and equipment into the rural areas!

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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