Despite significant progress in decreasing poverty gap, increasing primary school enrollment with attaining gender parity, reducing child and infant morality rates over the past three decades, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Bangladesh is still one of the highest rates in the world.
Each year 23,000 women die during delivery process. Most of the women are dying from severe bleeding, infections, eclampsia, obstructed labour and the consequences of unsafe abortions. All these complications are preventable by proper interventions, awareness and treatment by skilled health workers.
An estimated 600,000 women suffer from maternal complications associated with childbirth every year. Ironically the government including development partners often claims a success of reducing the MMR from 570 in 1990 to 351 after 2000. But the cumulative number is still 23,000, which could not be ignored at all.
The country yesterday observed the Safe Motherhood Day with a view to stepping up the efforts to save more lives and ensuring skilled health services to every expecting mothers.
Poverty and status of women are the root causes of the problem of high maternal mortality, nevertheless the lack of proper service are a major cause linked to underlying and immediate causes of death.
Available source of statistics from UNICEF, WHO and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics show that skilled birth attendants attend only 18 percent of birth and 80 percent deaths occur at attempted home delivery. It also reveals that 69 percent of poor households do not have the access to any ante-natal care.
Though MMR has been declined to 351 in 100,000 live birth, the current pace of decline rate does not show hope for attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of MMR at 144 by 2015.
If we do not pay extra attention and care in terms of sufficient budgetary allocation for healthcare, particularly for safe motherhood, MMR may remain above 310 in 2015.
In recent days, the country is witnessing many lavish and sophisticated private hospitals in big cities meant for only rich and privileged people. Poor people have little access to quality health services. The number of persons per hospital bed is still 2736 and number of persons per physician is 3317.
But the real scenario is worst than the statistics because, more than 50 percent posts of doctors are vacant in rural health centers. Moreover, 40 percent of doctor and 55 percent of nurse remain absent in their duty stations at rural health complex. They prefer to be in urban areas, which cause severe deprivation of minimum health service among rural poor people.
The GO-NGO programmes on developing skill of traditional birth attendant (TBA) have been halted since decade. Rather than giving more emphasis on these services, policy makers are shifting their focus.
However, reports from Save the Children recommend to train and deploy more health workers, especially midwives and other female health workers and to provide better incentives to attract qualified female health workers.