Influence of Gender Measures on Maternal and Child Health in Africa

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Author(s): Singh K, Bloom S, Brodish P

Year: 2011


Despite progress maternal mortality remains high in developing countries. The WHO estimated 358,000 maternal deaths in 2008, while the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation had a similar estimate at 342,900 (WHO, 2010; Hogan et al., 2010). Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5a is to reduce by 2/3 the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 1990 to 2015. The decrease from the 542,424 deaths in 1990 to WHO’s estimate of 358,000 in 2008 represents only a 34% decline. The majority of maternal deaths can be prevented if women had access to emergency obstetric care (EmOC)1. UNICEF (2010) estimates that about 8.1 million children under the age of five died in the year 2009, while the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (Rajaratnam et al., 2010) estimated the number of deaths to be 7.7 million in 2010. MDG 4a is to reduce by 2/3 the under-five mortality rate. The decline from 12.4 million deaths in 1990 to UNICEF’s estimate of 8.1 million deaths in 2009 represents only a 1/3 reduction. It is estimated that about 2/3 of under-five deaths can be easily prevented. Though the treatment and preventative measures to save these children are largely known, access to such services is an obstacle for many around the world. 

This report explores the associations between gender measures and several health outcomes which include (1) low BMI, an indicator of overall maternal health; (2) birth in a facility, an indicator of the utilization of maternal health services and a proxy measure for maternal mortality; (3) having a child who is fully immunized, an indicator of the utilization of a preventive child health service; and (4) treatment seeking for a child with an acute respiratory infection (ARI), an indicator of the utilization of a curative child health service.