The State and Cost of Maternal Mortality
By admin May 27, 2015



Reduced maternal mortality rates (MMR) have been celebrated around the world over the past 15 years. The MMR dropped by 45 percent from 1990 to 2013 when Millennium Development Goal 5 was pursued to meet its target to reduce the rate by three quarters by 2015. Despite the unmet target, the common efforts to reduce the MMR brought attention to the severity of the issue and gathered resources from the diverse supporters around the world. However, the number of mothers who die during childbirth is still high enough to require continuous and intensified efforts.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines maternal mortality as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.” According to the research from the International Center for Research on Women and Family Care International, maternal mortality directly affects the survival and wellbeing of the surviving family members, especially children. Most importantly, the survival of a newborn infant highly depends on the existence or health of the mother. Additionally, the postpartum – after termination of pregnancy – health care involves high costs, which is burdensome for a household economy, particularly for poor households.

Beyond the direct costs, indirect costs are incurred. In the case that a mother used to take care of household work, including chores and farming or any other income-generating work, the family is affected by losing a member of their labor force. Moreover, another family member needs to give up their time for making money to care for the left newborn child.

The research conducted on a Kenyan case also shows that the left children experience severe educational interruption after a mother’s death. They can be relocated to live with other relatives, during which their education can be interrupted. In other cases, due to high costs incurred as described above, there are possibilities that children have to give up their schooling or have less time to study because they have to compensate for their mother’s absence.

Given the high social and economic cost of maternal mortality, the global society must recognize that the high MMR is not only a health problem but also a problem that hampers growth of the whole society. Based on this recognition, the more intensified cooperation among global societies to address the problem is needed.


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