THE United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says the high maternal mortality rates, currently at 1024 deaths of mother per 100 000 live births are undermining efforts to improve the wellbeing of women in Lesotho.
This was said by the UNFPA Communications Specialist, Violet Maraisane, during a field trip by 45 parliamentarians who visited health facilities in Semonkong, Mohale’s Hoek and Leribe.
The field trip which was facilitated by the UN agency is aimed at inspecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights services to facilitate the compilation of a report which will be presented before parliament to support the designing of interventions to tackle maternal mortality.
According to the latest Lesotho Demographic and Health Survey, of the 100 000 live births per year, an estimated 1024 women die of ailments related to child birth.
Ms Maraisane said as a UN agency that specialises in sexual and reproductive health issues, they were worried about the high rate of maternal deaths due to pregnancy-related ailments.
“Based on the situation in the country, it is critical that all women have access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning,” Ms Maraisane said.
“Every woman should have a choice as to when they want to have a child and how many children. Every pregnancy should be wanted, and no woman should die while giving birth.”
Ms Maraisane said the UNFPA was working with various partners to ensure safe child-birth, and these included legislators whose role was to push for the review of policies and the enactment of laws to reduce maternal mortality.
“Issues such as child marriages are also to blame for the deaths of women because there is a huge risk when children fall pregnant before their bodies are mature enough to stand the strain of pregnancy,” Ms Maraisane said.
The field trip participants observed that women staying in the hard to reach parts of Semonkong struggled to access sexual and reproductive health services.
Therefore, in most cases, pregnant women relied on horses to travel for hours to get to the nearest health facility.
“We are looking at ways to assist these women, including working with the government to establish outreach services where mobile clinics can go out to the remote villages to provide services.”
The chairperson of the Social Cluster, a group which deals with the community’s health, Moshoeshoe Fako, said after getting results from Lesotho Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (LePHIA), the government instructed parliamentarians to visit various districts and identify the underlying causes of maternal mortality, new HIV infections, early marriages and gender-based violence.
“This exercise is aimed at informing government planning and programming so that they can effectively deal with challenges such as maternal mortality and ensure that the country achieves the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
He said the field visit was part of this outreach initiative that have seen them recently visit correctional service facilities to identify challenges faced by inmates before and after they came to prison.
Mr Fako also expressed concern at the understaffing and lack of essential medical equipment in facilities such as Motebang Hospital.
“I think sexual and reproductive health services can be improved if we can have more medical equipment and doctors based in areas where they are needed most. That would improve the package of services targeting women in need of various services and go a long way to reduce the number of women who die of pregnancy-related complications,” Mr Fako said.