Sierra Leone maternal death rate is 'a human rights emergency'

By agency reporter
October 23, 2009

As world leaders meet at the United Nations in New York to discuss increased funding for healthcare in developing countries, Amnesty International's Secretary General, Irene Khan, has launched a campaign to reduce maternal deaths in Sierra Leone.

The report 'Out of Reach: The Cost of Maternal Health in Sierra Leone' uses graphic and personal testimonials to show how women and girls are often unable to access lifesaving treatment because they are too poor to pay for it.

In Sierra Leone, one in eight women risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The NGO points out that this is one of the highest maternal death rates in the world.

Thousands of women bleed to death after giving birth. Most die in their homes. Some die on the way to hospital; in taxis, on motorbikes or on foot. In Sierra Leone, less than half of deliveries are attended by a skilled birth attendant and less than one in five are carried out in health facilities.

"These grim statistics reveal that maternal deaths are a human rights emergency in Sierra Leone," said Irene Khan, launching the report in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown. "Women and girls are dying in their thousands because they are routinely denied their right to life and health, in spite of promises from the government to provide free healthcare to all pregnant women."

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