Amnesty: Better services for pregnant women

2014-10-09 18:04
Pregnant woman. (<a href="">Shutterstock</a>)

Pregnant woman. (Shutterstock)

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Johannesburg - Government needs to strengthen its commitment to providing basic services to pregnant women, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The human rights NGO proposed a list of recommendations that government departments could put in place to decrease the rate of maternal mortality.

It encouraged the social services department to start providing child support grants to women before their children were born.

Amnesty researcher Louise Carmody told journalists in Johannesburg the money would come in handy during the ante-natal period.

Carmody said pregnant women in impoverished nations needed the grant because finding employment was difficult during pregnancy.

The nutritious food they needed was expensive, as was the cost of transport to clinics for ante-natal care.

Healthcare workers’ conduct

Amnesty also encouraged the health department to provide more human rights education to health-care workers.

This came after many pregnant women and girls interviewed by the group complained of the conduct of healthcare workers.

"It was concerning that pregnant women thought HIV testing wasn't voluntary," said Carmody.

She claimed many of them avoided getting early ante-natal care because they feared being given the test.

"At some clinics, HIV-positive women were given distinct files," said Carmody, adding that in other places they had separate queues to receive treatment.

Women thus feared they would be discriminated against if their status was known.

Amnesty also called for the education department to start giving age-appropriate education about sexual health at school.

SA maternal mortality rate at 269/100 000

It also called for the health department to provide safe, reliable ambulances to ferry women to clinics, especially during childbirth.

Carmody said during their research, which was conducted in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, they found that pregnant women were encouraged to save money for private transport for use during labour.

This was because ambulances were not always available to them.

"The costs were between R500 and R1 000," said Carmody.

The group's research focused mainly on the two provinces as it found that they had the poorest performance indicators in the area of maternal health and access to sexual, reproductive, and maternal health services.

According to Amnesty International, the maternal mortality rate in South Africa stood at 269 deaths per 100 000 live births.

Amnesty International general secretary Salil Shetty described the figures as shocking.

Government could not say it did not have enough resources to address the matter, Shetty said.

Read more on:    amnesty international  |  health

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