Red flag as report reveals high rate of maternal mortality

Wednesday July 29 2020

A new report has revealed that most women have stopped seeking medical care from hospitals and prefer delivering at home, leading to rising cases of maternal deaths in the country. PHOTO | FILE


Delays in seeking medical care has been attributed to sharp rise in maternal mortality in the country Statistics from the Ministry of Health show that 210 out of every 100,000 expectant mothers die as a result of postpartum haemorrhage and fetal distress.

Postpartum haemorrhage is the loss of more than 500ml or 1,000ml of blood within the first 24 hours following childbirth while fetal distress is an emergency pregnancy, labour, and delivery complication in which a baby experiences oxygen deprivation.

Latest report on maternal mortality shows that one in 85 pregnant women in the country stand a chance of dying of pregnancy-related complications.

In 2019, about 900 mothers died while or after giving birth and cases are predicted to increase as pregnant women shy away from going to hospitals.

Rwanda Today also learnt that reduced numbers of doctors, nurses and other medical workers in hospitals after majority were deployed to fight coronavirus, many mothers opt to give birth at home in fear of contracting the virus.

A Rwanda Today mini-survey in four teaching hospitals and fifteen District hospitals in the country found that at least 15 doctors and nurses have been removed from the hospitals to be on the Covid-19 frontline.


which has left a gap in hospitals thaDr John Baptist Nkuranga, a paediatrician and specialist in neonatology at King Faisal Hospital, said even before the pandemic maternal deaths were high due to limited skilled personnel, health equipment, failure to identify early labour signs and limited diagnostic tools.

“Medical supply chain disruptions, lack of financial resources, and declining use of health services by people worried about infection are catastrophic for mothers and children than Covid-19 itself,” said Dr Nkuranga.

“For health practitioners to be able to reduce the rate of maternal deaths and postpartum haemorrhage, there is a need for more highly skilled personnel and regular training to practising medical doctors,” said Dr Nkuranga.

He said mothers and children are affected by the disruption of essential preventative and curative support and supplies resulting from suspensions of services and transport systems, as well as by financial constraints.

Dr Nkuranga estimates a devastating increase in the numbers of maternal and child deaths resulting from reductions in routine health service coverage.

According to the recent Lancet Global Health, a study on early estimates of the indirect effects of coronavirus pandemic on maternal and child mortality in low-income and middle-income countries, an additional 253,500 to 1.2 million children under five could die in the next six months.

“Cases of maternal deaths are still high but they have not increased because of coronavirus since they were already rising though not at a high rate before the outbreak,” said Dr Felix Sayinzoga, the Division Manager of the Maternal and Child Health at Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

“The focus has shifted to providing quality services to expectant mothers and training health personnel with new technologies, so with all that maternal deaths will be decreased and hope next year will have reduced to a reasonable rate,” says Dr Sayinzoga.

Dr Sayinzoga says that one of the challenges that increase maternal deaths are delays by communities to detect early signs of labour and post centres and health centres failure to transfer mothers with complications to hospitals on time for advanced treatment.