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‘Maternal health should top polls agenda’


UNFPA Representative to Lesotho Ms Nuzhat Ehsan

Pascalinah Kabi

UNITED Nations Population’s Fund (UNFPA) Representative Nuzhat Ehsah says Lesotho has unacceptably high maternal mortalities and maternal health issues should top the election agenda.

Basotho go to the polls on 3 June 2017 after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s seven-party coalition government was toppled in a parliamentary no-confidence vote engineered by a four party opposition coalition on 1 March 2017.

And the latest Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey report stated that maternal mortality ratio was 1 024 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births.

The report further stated that current levels of fertility and mortality indicated that 1 in 32 women will die http://cialisfrance24.com from pregnancy or childbearing.

Based on these statistics, Ms Ehsah said it was unacceptable that hundreds of women continued to die from giving birth, saying that the country could not afford to have mothers dying at this rate.

She said that the deaths were avoidable and preventable as long as mothers got assistance on time.

Ms Ehsah said while they appreciated efforts the Ministry of Health was taking to address the issue, there was however an urgent need for nurses to change their generally “unwelcoming attitudes” towards pregnant mothers.

“There is room for midwives to improve their attitudes towards pregnant women and honestly speaking we shouldn’t be having these high statistics in this modern age,” Ms Ehsah said.

“Midwives need to know that they are valued and know that we appreciate the strain they take in the line of duty. There is however, a need to further investigate on how these deaths were happening and see how these cases can be prevented,” she said.

“Politicians need to be aware that high maternal mortalities are unacceptable and need to be stopped now. They need to make maternal health a top agenda in their election campaign and government policies.”

Ms Ehsah said it was also worrying that the Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey reports for the past 20 years painted the same picture of high maternal mortalities; stressing that the “good news is that this is entirely preventable.”

One of the high causes of maternal mortalities in Lesotho is the high teenage pregnancies stemming from child marriages.

Although the constitution of Lesotho outlaws child marriages, the Laws of Lerotholi (customary law) allow children under the age of 18 to be married off as long as both families agree.

Asked what the UNFPA was doing to help the country abolish this section of the law, Ms Ehsah said the UNFPA was working tirelessly to help countries like Lesotho with technical support to enact laws that made child marriages illegal.

“If there is a harmful law, we are supposed to look into it and ensure that lawmakers are sensitised to ensure that they are fully aware of the law,” she said, adding that advocacy programmes must also target people of different statuses in society.

She said that every individual was duty-bound to ensure that communities understand that child marriage was not the only option in addressing difficult situations that they might be faced with.

For her part, Independent Midwives Association of Lesotho president ‘Mapitso Matsoha said, “In the past we had traditional birth attendants and a maximum of two nurses per health facilities but the maternal mortalities were not this high”.

She said illegal migration to South Africa also contributed to the current high maternal deaths.

She said most women who fled in South Africa in search of jobs and later on fell pregnant would not access Antenatal Care (ANC) services in the neighbouring country for fear of deportation.

She said as a result, the women carried pregnancies to full term without seeking health services, putting the lives of both the mother and baby at risk.

“Just last week I was informed that a Leribe woman died while giving birth at home because she did not go to the clinic for the entire month and only came home (from South Africa) to give birth.”

Ms Matsoha said while Lesotho could not do away with customary law, the fact that the constitution was the supreme law of the land however, made the Laws of Lerotholi inapplicable on child marriage.

She also said there was an urgent need to strengthen Lesotho’s educational campaigns throughout the country to ensure that child marriages were abolished.


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