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40 % fewer mothers die during pregnancy and childbirth in Mozambique

Within 17 years, maternal mortality in Mozambique has fallen by as much as 40%. The impressive result has been achieved partly due to Denmark’s support for building health clinics and training health professionals.

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Mother and child outside the maternity ward in the Tete province
Photo: Ernst Tobisch / Danida

In Mozambique, the situation of both women and children has improved. This is partly due to the adoption of a new and successful model in which Mozambique sits behind the wheel and where donors channel funds through the country’s own institutions. The model has been developed in partnership with Denmark and has produced such positive results that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has asked Danida to administer some of its support for developing the health sector in Mozambique. Some of the key results are that far fewer women today die during pregnancy and childbirth than earlier, that fewer children die before the age of five, and that fewer children are malnourished. More nurses, doctors and midwives are also being trained and more local health clinics are being built.

Twice as many now have access to contraception in poor province

One of the latest surveys shows that 40% fewer women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2011 than in 1997. The same good news applies to child mortality – i.e. the number of children who die before reaching the age of five has also fallen by 40% during the same period. The positive results are due to more women than before having access to antenatal examinations and receiving better assistance during childbirth.

Danida’s cooperation with local health authorities and other donors has also resulted in more children receiving health checks and being vaccinated, and there is also greater focus on preventing chronic malnutrition. Women have also acquired greater co-determination regarding when they wish to have children. In the poor north-western Tete province in 2013, a year’s supply of contraceptives was issued to 100,000 couples to provide protection against pregnancy, doubling the number since 2011. Particularly long-term methods of contraception, such as a coil or hormone injections, have become the preferred choice among women.

Substantial progress, but a well-functioning health system is still not around the corner

In many developing countries, women traditionally give birth at home without any assistance from trained health personnel. Today, most women in Mozambique give birth in labour and delivery rooms. However, these rooms are still fairly primitive, often being just a simple house with a wooden couch, limited hygiene and minimal equipment. So there is still a long way to go before the lives of many more women and children can be saved. However, even these primitive labour and delivery rooms are a major step forward, as the presence of a nurse or midwife during pregnancy and childbirth can save the life of the women and the child. Today, it is estimated that 408 women die per 100,000 births. In Denmark, the comparable figure is just five women per 100,000. However, thanks to, among others, Danida, the number of deaths in Mozambique has fallen from 692 to 408.

Denmark as invisible donor

Denmark has become known as an invisible donor in the health sector in Mozambique. Danida has built up a support system where the Mozambique government is in the driver’s seat, and where the funds are channelled through the country’s own authorities and out to the places where they are used. This is known as sector budget support. Denmark uses this support to help build up a strong, national health sector, where the authorities themselves have ownership and responsibility for tackling challenges and creating improvements.

FACTS about the efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality

  • Compared with 1997, 40% fewer women died in 2011 during pregnancy and childbirth. Under-five child mortality has dropped by 40% during the period 1997-2011.
  • Today, 66% of all births in the Tete province take place at health clinics with the help of health personnel, and almost all pregnant women come to an antenatal examination at least once during pregnancy.
  • Today, half of the health clinics have waiting houses for pregnant women. These waiting houses are located right next to the health centre where the women are due to give birth.