Maternity deaths in Iraq have nearly tripled since 1990, UN survey finds

4 November 2003

The number of Iraqi women who die in pregnancy or in childbirth has almost tripled since 1990, according to a survey released today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The study found that bleeding, ectopic pregnancies and prolonged labour are among the prime causes of the rise in maternity deaths, up from 117 per every 100,000 live births in 1989 to 310 for the same amount last year.

UNFPA found that during the last decade more Iraqi women were giving birth at home, often without any skilled help, because they lacked access to functioning medical facilities. Security had broken down in many areas and communication and transport networks were poor, while many medical clinics had been damaged or looted.

In New York today, UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said Iraq’s reconstruction would benefit enormously from fast advances in reproductive health.

“Millions of Iraqi youth are about to enter their reproductive years. We must protect their health and provide them with quality information and appropriate services,” she said.

The study called for the rehabilitation of health-care infrastructure, the supply of appropriate equipment and drugs, as well as refresher courses for health personnel who have missed international scientific advances over the last decade because of sanctions.