Maternal Mortality in Somalia: What ARC is doing to combat this crisis

A recent story published by UNFPA illustrates the maternal mortality crisis in Somalia . 11 women in Tulo Ano, a rural village in Somalia, died of pregnancy-related complications within the first week of October alone. All of the 11 cases were handled by Jamila Garad Ali, 23, one of the few qualified midwives in the area.

“Each of the 11 mothers had arrived after prolonged labour as they tried to manage the births themselves at home with unskilled traditional birth attendants. The warning signs and opportunities to manage the labour effectively were missed, and each mother was in a very bad state before the family brought them to seek professional care,” explained Jamila.

Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common. Women in Somalia have a one in 22 lifetime risk of maternal death making the maternal mortality rates in Somalia amongst the highest in the world. It’s estimated that the maternal mortality ratio is 732 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Much of the country has little or no access to medical services and in the most remote villages traditional birth attendants handle all deliveries. Conditions are often unsanitary and birth attendants don’t have the capacity to deal with complications that may arise. Just as in the case of Tulo Ano, women are often brought to medical facilities when it’s too late, some never make it at all. Moreover, the long-term effects of FGM put women at an added risk as they are prone to a number of obstetric complications including exposure to disease, infection, and a risk of hemorrhaging. The issue is further exacerbated by poverty, instability and a lack of education.

ARC International has been working in the health sector in Somalia since 2011, operating both fixed and mobile health facilities throughout the country. In particular, ARC works in maternal and child health to ensure that women are supported through their pregnancies, have safe deliveries and that their children have access to health services. Our goal is to find the gaps in healthcare in Somalia and fill them, particularly in the most remote areas. In addition to offering affordable health care, ARC also educates communities regarding safe practices and maternal and child health.

No community should have to lose 11 women in one week, with the support of funders, partners and community members, ARC wants to reduce that number to zero.