People's Stories Women's Rights

View previous stories

A National Health Crisis: Maternal Deaths in Papua New Guinea
by ChildFund Alliance
May 2018
A new report launched by ChildFund Australia uncovers the tragically high rates of maternal mortality in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbour.
The report A National Health Crisis: Maternal Deaths in Papua New Guinea reveals that PNG is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a mother, where 1 in 120 women are losing their lives during pregnancy in PNG, compared to 1 in 9,000 in Australia.
The report states that the risk of maternal death is 35 times greater in Papua New Guinea than in Australia, and more than half of women in PNG have no choice but to give birth at home, due to the extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics and healthcare workers. In rural areas, rates are even higher.
Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “The contrast between Australia’s maternal health standards and that of our closest neighbour is stark but can be addressed.
“No woman should die giving birth. Yet in a country just 160km north of Australia, women are losing their lives every day during childbirth due to unsafe conditions and causes that are completely preventable.
“A particular concern is that, unlike other developing countries in the region, maternal mortality rates in Papua New Guinea appear to be deteriorating, not improving.
“Australia has the ability to help our neighbour in preventing these needless deaths through simple interventions like improving basic healthcare at the village level.” Mr Spence said. “Currently rural health clinics, where they exist, are rudimentary, lack basic equipment and medicines, and are unable to service the vast health needs of impoverished communities.”
ChildFund Australia currently provides on the ground assistance for women and newborns in PNG in an effort to make childbirth safer for remote, rural communities.
“Our focus is on equipping frontline workers with the skills and resources they need to ensure more women and their newborns survive childbirth. We strongly encourage women to deliver at the nearest health facility where possible. But sadly, this is not feasible for most women in PNG.” Mr Spence said.
ChildFund Australia equips and trains dedicated volunteers at a village level to provide essential, basic health support to pregnant women in their community. This program aims to bridge the gap between remote villages and health clinics in major centres.
Volunteers receive training in how to assist birth delivery, health monitoring, advising pregnant mothers, and family planning. They are also trained in how to recognise the danger signs in pregnancy and childbirth, and when to refer their patients for specialist care.
ChildFund also provides volunteers and healthcare workers with birthing kits containing essential items that reduce the risks of infection.
A National Health Crisis: Maternal Deaths in Papua New Guinea Key Findings:
The risk of maternal death is 35 times greater in Papua New Guinea than in Australia.
As many as 80% of women in Central Province, where ChildFund works, have no choice but to give birth at home, increasing the risks to both mother and child.
Nationally, around half of all women will give birth without any form of skilled assistance, with this figure much higher in rural areas. In comparison, fewer than 1% of women in Australia are without proper care and support.
In PNG, there is an extreme shortage of hospitals, clinics and healthcare workers. Currently, there is one doctor for 18,000 people, compared to 1 for 300 in Australia. For every nurse in Papua New Guinea, there are 65 nurses in Australia.
Official data on maternal mortality in PNG is unreliable, as so many deaths in rural PNG are unaccounted for, however the available data suggests the situation is worsening.
* Access the report via the link below.

Visit the related web page

Fifty years ago, it became official: Family planning is a human right
by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
May 2018
Fifty years ago, on 13 May, the world declared family planning to be a basic human right.
Throughout all of human history, efforts to plan, avoid or delay pregnancy had been a private struggle endured by women and girls. But at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, family planning became a human rights obligation of every country, government and policymaker.
The conference’s outcome document, known as the Teheran Proclamation, stated unequivocally: “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”
Embedded in this legislative language was a game-changing realization: Women and girls have the right to avoid the exhaustion, depletion and danger of too many pregnancies, too close together. Men and women have the right to choose when and how often to embrace parenthood – if at all. Every individual has the human right to determine the direction and scope of his or her future in this fundamental way.
Yet 50 years later, this right is under attack. In many places, there are efforts to limit education about family planning, to restrict the variety and availability of contraceptive methods, and to prevent women and youth from accessing contraceptives at all. In other places, this right is simply unrealized through lack of access to family planning information and services.
Misinformation about family planning is rampant – and deadly. In Lebanon, one Syrian refugee reported that her husband forbade contraception, believing it causes infertility. As a result, she said, “I had back-to-back pregnancies. This caused me to have iron and calcium deficiency and made my body very weak.”
In fact, expanding access to family planning would save tens of thousands of lives every year by preventing unintended pregnancies, reducing the number of abortions, and lowering the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
Until family planning is a universally available choice, this human right will not be fully realized. UNFPA and the World Health Organization have recognized nine standards that must be met in every community, for every individual.
Nine standards to uphold the human right to family planning
1. Non-discrimination
Family planning information and services cannot be restricted on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, political affiliation, national origin, age, economic status, place of residence, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.
2. Available
Contraceptive information and services must be available in sufficient quantity, with sufficient variety, to accommodate everyone in need. This is a human rights necessity, just like access to clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and a minimum standard of health care.
Of course, there are many underlying factors that affect the availability of contraceptive information and services, such as the quality of education system and health infrastructure. Still, these issues must be addressed as a matter of human rights.
3. Accessible
Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone. This means services and information must be physically accessible, as well as affordable.
4. Acceptable
Contraceptive services and information must be provided in a dignified manner, respecting both modern medical ethics and the cultures of those being accommodated.
5. Good quality
Family planning information must be clearly communicated and scientifically accurate. Contraceptive commodities must be unexpired, and contraceptive services must be provided by skilled health personnel in a safe, sanitary environment.
6. Informed decision-making
Every person must be empowered to make reproductive choices with full autonomy, free of pressure, coercion or misrepresentation. Comprehensive contraceptive counselling must equip people with a full understanding of their choices, and they must be free to refuse any and all options.
7. Privacy and confidentiality
All individuals must enjoy the right to privacy when seeking family planning information and services. Health workers must be trained to uphold the confidentiality of all people exercising their right to family planning.
8. Participation
Countries have an obligation to ensure the active and informed participation of individuals in decisions that affect them, including health issues. This means, for instance, that women – who are often the primary recipients of family planning services – must be represented in the development of policies related to these services. Young people must be included in efforts to promote education about sexual and reproductive health, including family planning. The perspectives of vulnerable and marginalized must be incorporated into the provision of services in their communities.
9. Accountability
Health systems, education systems, leaders and policymakers must be accountable to the people they serve in all efforts to realize the human right to family planning. This means women, young people and marginalized populations must be aware of their right, and must be empowered to seek redress if this right is violated.

Visit the related web page

View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook