Dispatch

Renewing the fight against maternal and new-born mortality in Somalia

16 July 2015
©Some of the dignitaries who attended the launch

Somalia has been defined by some as one of the worst places to be a woman. Maternal mortality ratio stands at above 850/100,000 live births according to latest UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA estimates, with one out of every 12 women dying due to pregnancy related causes. One out of every ten Somali children dies before seeing their first birthday.

Minister of Health Her Excellency Hawa Hassan Mohamed explained that the two committees launched are very instrumental in Somalia's renewed fight towards the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity.Somalia has been defined by some as one of the worst places to be a woman. Maternal mortality ratio stands at above 850/100,000 live births according to latest UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA estimates, with one out of every 12 women dying due to pregnancy related causes. One out of every ten Somali children dies before seeing their first birthday.

Minister of Health Her Excellency Hawa Hassan Mohamed explained that the two committees launched are very instrumental in Somalia's renewed fight towards the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity.

"It is never too late to work on reversing the situation that we have in Somalia now. The Ministry of Health will stand up and put every effort to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity," said Honourable Mohamed.

She expressed Somalia's appreciation to UNFPA for the support and efforts to improve the reproductive health situation in Somalia.

MDSR, a relatively new concept that builds on the principles of public health surveillance, promotes routine identification and timely notification of maternal deaths and is a form of continuous surveillance linking health information system and quality improvement processes from local to national level, according to UNFPA Somalia's National Program Specialist for Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS Dr. Salad Dualle.

"MDSR helps in the quantification and determination of causes and how to avoid maternal deaths. Each one of these untimely fatalities provides valuable information, which if acted on, can prevent future deaths. In that regard, MDSR emphasizes the link between information and response. MDSR will contribute towards strengthening vital registration and better counting of maternal deaths, and provide better information for action and monitoring improvements in maternal health," said Dr. Dualle.
The primary goal of MDSR is to eliminate preventable maternal mortality by obtaining and strategically using information to guide public health actions and monitoring their impact, according to Dr. Dualle.

"If maternal mortality is to become more and more a rare event, MDSR will be crucial. It can drive more effective action, motivate more targeted invest¬ments and thereby move us closer to a future where preventable maternal deaths are a thing of the past," he said.
On the other hand, the obstetric fistula task force will among other urgent interventions, work closely with the MoH, UNFPA and other stakeholders to spearhead the conduct of a needs assessment on the current burden and management strategies in selected regions of Somalia, giving a national picture of obstetric fistula. 
One of the most serious injuries of childbearing is obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal, caused by prolonged, obstructed labour due to lack of timely and adequate medical care. Fistula has been virtually eliminated in industrialized nations, but in the developing world, it is estimated that more than 2 million women and girls are still living with the condition. However, the injury is preventable and, in most cases, can be repaired surgically. It is estimated that at least 50,000 new fistula cases occur each year, while fewer than 20,000 women and adolescent girls receive treatment annually.

Obstetric fistula can be largely avoided by delaying the age of the first pregnancy, stopping harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and ensuring timely access to obstetric care.

Reproductive health advisor for the Ministry of Health Dr. Abdulkadir Wehliye explained that the assessment will enable to determine the magnitude of obstetric fistula in Somalia, community understanding of the problem of obstetric fistula and health seeking behavior, stigma, factors at community level associated with the condition, prevention and treatment, potential for providing repair services, staffing and skills and the role of traditional birth attendants, among other issues.
Director of Medical Services Dr. Abdirisak Yusuf emphasised on the importance of collaboration by different actors in the health system for the efforts to bear fruits.

The launching ceremony of the two committees was attended by representatives from different ministries, members of the federal parliamentarians, health associations, referral hospital with CEmONC services and some of UNFPA's implementing partners such as Physicians Across Continent (PAC) and Swisso-Kalmo.

By: Pilirani Semu-Banda

UNFPA Communication Specialist