Midwife Oktovina Reba Bonay
Maternal and infant mortality rates remain high because of the number of young mothers who give birth at home and a lack of adequate healthcare facilities particularly in rural areas, said Minister of Health Nafsiah Mboi yesterday.
“Our country is very huge, and the number of mothers giving birth is high,” Mboi said during a speech to mark the 48th annual National Health Day.
“The bleeding and infection often occur with young mothers aged 15 to 16 years, and these usually happen in remote areas where residents’ homes are located pretty far from clinics.”
Mboi said national maternal and infant mortality rates remain well above the levels outlined by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
“The government must work hard to meet the target as stated in the MDGs. By the end of 2015, the maternal and infant mortality rates must be 102 per 100,000 live births and 24 per 1,000 live births, respectively,” Mboi said.
Maternal mortality rates stand at 228 per 100,000 live births, while infant mortality is 34 per 1,000 live births, according to official data from 2007.
The Health Ministry has made some progress in improving neo-natal and post-birth healthcare, as well as emergency care.
A “birth insurance” program implemented last year has provided financial assistance to mothers without insurance coverage. About 2.5 million mothers have benefited from the program as of this year, according to the Health Ministry’s website.
The government has also partnered with international NGOs to improve the quality of rural healthcare in provinces at higher risk of maternal and infant mortality.
Papua province has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. In 2007, the maternal and infant mortality rates were 362 per 100,000 per live births and 41 per 1,000 per live births respectively.
However, the lack of clinics and emergency services in large areas of the country remains a chronic problem.
“The distance between villagers’ homes and hospitals or clinics is too far,” said Oktovina Reba Bonay, a midwife and well-known advocate for improved maternal care.
“They must walk for kilometers to get to hospitals or clinics, so they have no choice but to give birth at home.”
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