Research Exposes Inequalities In Maternal Health And Survival Of Newborns

Poorest women have least access to antenatal care


The proportion of newborns who survive their first month of life is one of the most important indicators of access and equality in sexual and reproductive health care because neonatal mortality is a sign of poor maternal health and substandard care received by mothers during pregnancy and at birth. This is according to the latest State of the World Population (SWOP) report.
According to the report, neonatal mortality rates vary according to whether the mother and newborn are in urban or rural areas, and whether they are among a country’s poorest or richest 20 per cent of the population.
“In today’s world, gaps in wealth have grown shockingly wide. Many people linger at the bottom, denied their human rights and prospects for a better life. At the top, resources and privileges accrue at explosive rates, pushing the world ever further from the vision of equality embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Inequality, the report states, is often understood in terms of income or wealth the dividing line between the rich and poor. But in reality, economic disparities are only one part of the inequality story. Many other social, racial, political and institutional dimensions feed on each other, and together block hope for progress among people on the margins.
The report showed that in developing countries, limited access to sexual and reproductive health services and negative health outcomes correlate strongly with poverty. Women in the poorest 20 per cent of households may find themselves with little or no access to sexual and reproductive health care, including contraception, leading to unintended pregnancies, higher risk of illness or death from pregnancy or childbirth and the need to give birth on their own, without the assistance of a doctor, nurse or midwife. For these poor women, their poor sexual and reproductive health can block opportunities, blunt their potential and solidify their position at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
“Whether a woman is able to exercise her reproductive rights can influence whether she will
realize her full potential and will be able to seize opportunities in education or compete for a job. Her options in life may be curtailed by limited options in sexual and reproductive health. A woman with no control over her fertility may find herself unable to join the paid labour force because she has more children than she intended. Or it may be too difficult for her to stay in a job because childcare is prohibitively expensive. And, once in the job market, she may be passed over for promotion because her employer imagines that she will leave work because of pregnancy.”
The report further points out that two critical dimensions are gender inequality, and inequalities in realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights; the latter, in particular, still receives inadequate attention. Neither explains the totality of inequality in the world today, but both are essential pieces that demand much more action. Without such action, many women and girls will remain caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, diminished capabilities, unfulfilled human rights and unrealized potential especially in developing countries where gaps are widest.