Amnesty International - Giving Life, Risking Death: Maternal Mortality in Burkina Faso (2009)

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This report by Amnesty International addresses the causes of the high rate of maternal mortality in Burkina Faso. It sets recommendations to the government, the international community and the donors to cement progress in reducing maternal mortality and, in general, enhancing respect for women’s rights.

Every year, more than 2,000 women (307 per 100,000 live births) die in Burkina Faso from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. According to Amnesty International, most of these deaths could have been prevented.

The report states several reasons that result in women in Burkina Faso not receiving the health care needed to reduce maternal mortality rates. These include:

  • Lack of information on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Women’s low status, which undermines their right to decide whether, when and how many children to have.
  • Social and economic barriers, notably the cost of medical treatment.
  • Geographic barriers obstructing access to health facilities.
  • Poor quality of treatment due to shortages of medical supplies and qualified personnel, with medical staff not properly monitored or held accountable and poor pay and conditions for staff.

Women’s low status in Burkina Faso is also revealed by other practices affecting maternal mortality such as female genital mutilation (FGM), early marriages and pregnancies, polygamy and forced marriage. The report highlights that, although FGM has been prohibited in Burkina Faso since 1996, it is still practiced clandestinely, and, as recognized by the WHO, it can lead to difficulties in pregnancy and labour.

Amnesty International recommendations call for:

  • Addressing discrimination against women and harmful practices.
  • Expanding and improving family planning services.
  • Removing financial barriers to access to maternal health care.
  • Improving the availability and accessibility of reproductive health care.
  • Enhancing monitoring and evaluation and ensure accountability of medical personnel.

Other recommendations are given to ensure the effectiveness and desired outcomes of development cooperation efforts.