Maternal mortality: Why is Bangladesh lagging far behind the target?

The maternal mortality rate in Bangladesh is decreasing and this is relieving. But it is worrying that we still lag behind the target by a huge margin. Death of a woman during pregnancy, parturition, and within 42 days of giving birth is considered as maternal mortality.

The World Health Organization has identified several factors that include bleeding, high blood pressure, and infection during pregnancy, complexities due to unsafe abortion and conditions like HIV/AIDS and malaria as the prime causes of maternal mortality. As a result, maternal mortality has to be seen as a part of women’s healthcare as a whole.

The information published in the ‘Trends in maternal mortality 2000 to 2020: estimates by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and UNDESA/Population Division’ is worrying. Regarding Bangladesh, the report said the maternal mortality rate has decreased by 72 per cent in the 20 years. Despite this 10 women are dying due to complexities regarding child birth every day.

The report also said 123 women died in 2020 against the birth of every 100,000 children. The rate was 441 two decades ago. The decrease rate of maternal mortality is 6.5 every year. But this is not enough. Speaking to Prothom Alo, public health expert Abu Jamil Faisal said, “The maternal mortality rate in our country is still in three digits. The rate in Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka is two figures while many countries have brought it down to single digit.”

The Sustainable Development Goals talked about bringing the rate to 70 by 2030. It won’t be possible to achieve the rate in the next seven years, the experts believe. The rate in Bangladesh is better than Afghanistan (620), Nepal (174) and Pakistan (154). The rate in India is 103 while in Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka is 60, 57 and 29 respectively.

But this statistics does not prove that Bangladesh is in a better position in terms of providing better maternal healthcare. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are behind Bangladesh in almost all the indices related to human resources and healthcare. The question is why would we remain behind of India, Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka?

We have significant achievements in several sectors of healthcare, including bringing down the population growth rate, child mortality rate (currently 15 in 1000). The child mortality rate in 2009 was 28. But the achievement in decreasing maternity mortality rate is relatively low.

We have progressed into a developing nation and have been dreaming to be a developed one. But why would we stay behind in curbing maternal mortality? UN and several other international family planning and healthcare providers have put emphasis on increasing investment on an emergency basis to get rid of the situation. There would be no trained midwife for safe child delivery, if investment is not increased.

It would be possible to bring down the maternal mortality rate to two digits if better healthcare is ensured for all the citizens across the country. The SDG target will be beyond reach if the health ministry does not take effective steps immediately.