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Scrutiny
 
MEDICAL CHALLENGE: STILLBIRTHS
Dead before they Could Live
Stillbirths are Becoming more Prominent than HIV cases in terms of Casualties. They cannot be Ignored Anymore
Issue Date - 12/05/2011
 
The annual number of stillbirths (a baby that dies after the 28th week of gestation, or during the third trimester of pregnancy) around the world is more than the number of people who die from HIV-related causes. Today, it is becoming a serious public health issue globally, especially in developing countries.

Some 2.6 million stillbirths occurred worldwide in 2009, according to the first comprehensive set of estimates published in the Lancet medical journal. As high as 66% (1.8 million) stillbirths in the world occur in just 10 countries. India leads, followed by Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh, Congo, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Tanzania. Stillbirths disproportionately affect the poor, with 98% of deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. An African woman has a 24 times greater risk of stillbirth than a woman in a high-income country.

These deaths are directly related to lack of skilled care at the critical time for mothers and babies. Two-thirds occur in rural areas, where skilled birth attendants are not always available for essential care during childbirth and for obstetric emergencies, including Caesarean sections.

In rural Nyanza (Kenya’s western province) for instance, health centres are few and far between, and many women lose their babies on the long journey from home to the hospital, while others lose babies by choosing to deliver at home. Unless better facilities for antenatal care are created and awareness about the causes and prevention of stillbirth is spread around effectively, these macabre statistics are only bound to grow further. Honestly, the Indian health ministry’s silence on this issue is shameful.

 

Akram Hoque           

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