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IWD: UNFPA decries maternal mortality, violence against women


The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) has condemned the maternal mortality ratio in West and Central Africa, describing it as one of the highest in the world, with countries like Chad and Sierra-Leone averaging about 1,000 deaths per 100, 000 live births and Nigeria with almost 600 deaths per 100, 000 births.

This was made known at the UNFPA celebration of the International Women’s Day and the unveiling of a regional ambassador.

According to the Deputy Resident Representative of the UNFPA, Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy, West and Central Africa is made up of 33 countries and home to just 400 million people, yet contribute to over 10 per cent of the global maternal health burden.

This, he said, was a cause for great concern because most of the deaths could be avoided if women had access to basic, quality, reproductive healthcare, family planning, trained health professionals and timely access to high quality emergency obstetric and newborn care.

He lamented that 55 per cent of pregnant women still give birth without any skilled assistance, thereby putting a lot of them at risk of dying from pregnancy related issues.

He said apart from maternal mortality, violence against women and girls, female genital mutilations, gender inequality, educational and economic disenfranchisement was still on the rise.

The Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. , lamented that despite some progress made, there was still a long way to go in achieving gender equality.

Osotimehin noted that every year, thousands of girls are still being forced into child marriages and have children against their will.

To raise awareness, engage communities and advocate for more rights for women and girls, the UNFPA unveiled actress and activist, Stephanie Linus, as the Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal Health for West and Central Africa.

Linus, while accepting the honour, said: “For thousands of women in Sub-Saharan Africa, pregnancy is associated with suffering, ill-health and death.

“As a woman and mother, I believe every woman has the right to health, wanted pregnancies and safe childbirth.

“When I produced Dry’ I told the story of millions of girls forced to be child brides. Two years later, I haven’t stopped raising my voice to advocate for the rights of women and girls.”

She promised to work with UNFPA, under the theme, Leave No One Behind, to draw attention to what needs to be done in the areas of sexual reproductive health and to create enabling environments for women and girls, empower them and protect their rights and dignity.

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