Access to Quality Health Services
Significant challenges persist in reducing gender disparities in health on the continent. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for more than half of the 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2010, with an average maternal mortality ratio of 500 per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality trends have been varied across the African continent and overall progress has been modest.
African women on average have more children than anywhere else in the world leading to a detrimental impact on their health and survival. In 2010 a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa had 4.9 children, compared to 2.7 in South Asia and2.2 in Latin America.
The average contraceptive prevalence (22 per cent) is less than half that of South Asia (51 per cent) and less than a third that of East Asia (77 per cent). Although the rates of family planning use are increasing, empowering women with the means to control fertility remains a neglected priority. A recent study published in the Lancet showed that contraceptive use averted 92,752 maternal deaths in Africa alone, accounting for nearly one-third of total maternal deaths. An additional 59,000 maternal deaths could be averted in Sub-Saharan Africa if the unmet need for contraception is met.
The Bank is supporting projects to strengthen health infrastructure and services to improve maternal health, for example construction of gender-friendly health facilities. These projects have increased women’s access to skilled delivery and emergency obstetric care. Female health workers trained under the project have acquired skills for providing maternal health services.
- In Tanzania, health projects have improved women’s access to functioning health facilities that provide comprehensive obstetric care. These projects also improved the quality of reproductive health services by training service providers and upgrading medical equipment.
- In Uganda, a project to improve the quality of maternal health significantly reduced maternal deaths in the 10 project districts. Mbarara Hospital in Western Uganda recorded a 43 per cent reduction in maternal mortality rate during the project implementation period.
- In Tunisia, the AfDB is supporting the Tunisian National Observatory on Emerging Diseases and more precisely a nationwide survey on the prevalence of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) among women in order to prevent cervical cancer.
- In Ethiopia, the Bank is supporting a pilot study on the impact of the use of mobile phones by health extension workers to improve access to antenatal care, safe delivery and family planning services.