20 May 2010

A successful seminar on maternal mortality

Maternal mortality

On Tuesday 11 May, the School of Global Health hosted this year's Mother's Day seminar together with Enreca Health and UNFPA. The afternoon seminar on ways to reduce maternal mortality was attended by politicians, students, researchers and members of the royal family, and the event both moved the audience and gave the Minister for Development Cooperation, Søren Pind, something to think about  

Festsalen på KU

By Kathrine Storm

It is possible to reduce maternal mortality! But we must prioritise the means and this demands political will and ongoing work.  The message was clear from the speakers of the Mother's Day seminar on Tuesday 11 May organised jointly by Enreca Health, UNFPA and the School of Global Health .

In the beautiful setting of the University's Ceremonial Hall, a group of leading health professionals and researchers presented impressive experiences and stories of maternal mortality.

Among the seven speakers was Swedish Doctor Staffan Bergstrøm who pointed out how Sri Lanka has reduced maternal mortality with great success, not least due to free access to health services and education of midwives.

"Midwives have helped mothers deliver for hundreds of years, and with the right skills to perform e.g. caesarean sections we can educate a strong team of health professionals", Staffan Bergström said and pointed out how human resources are the cornerstone of a  strong health system.

The fact that basic improvements can have a huge impact was also the key message from Dr. Godfrey Mbaruku. The only example known and documented in sub-Saharan Africa is from Kigoma in Tanzania where Dr. Godfrey Mbaruku almost single-handedly reduced the rate of maternal mortality in the whole region over a 7-year period.  

 "My research indicates that maternal mortality fell from 933 to 186 per 100,000 live births over the period 1984 to 1991.Thus it is underscored that the problem of maternal mortality can be successfully approached by a low cost intervention programme which aims at identifying avoidable issues and focusing upon locally available problem solutions,'' Dr. Mbaruku explained.

Common to all these success stories was the message that in order to reduce maternal mortality a strong health system is needed where women can deliver with a skilled birth attendant who is able to provide life saving care if complications arise.

Royal presence and political influence

The many presentations, backed up by hard numbers on mortality clearly moved the audience which also included her royal highness, Crown Princess Mary.

The Danish Minister for Development Cooperation who both gave a presentation on the Danish development priorities and participated in the debate also remarked how he had learnt a lot from the afternoon's seminar. The self-named "minister of freedom" pointed out how women's right to decide what happens to their own body and gender equality in general is central to improving maternal health. A point of view the organisers of the seminar hope he will take with him to New York when Denmark co-facilitates the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals Summit in September

"The seminar was a great success due to the burning engagement from the speakers, as well as from the dedicated Crown Princess, The Rector of the University of Copenhagen and the Minister for Development Cooperation. The impressive attendance and the beautiful Ceremonial Hall left us all with a clear impression that maternal mortality soon could be history. We hope this seminar has inspired the minster in his work and his participation at the UN September Summit", says Bjarke Lund Sørensen on behalf of the organising team.

Read more? Several articles were published in the Danish media.