Thursday, May 03, 2007
Indonesia has slashed its maternal mortality rate over the last decade but has not yet met the Millennium Development Goals target of 102 per 100,000 live births by 2015.
"This shows that the quality of health in the country is still low. The maternal mortality rate is one of the main indicators in measuring the health status of a country. The government should pay more attention to this problem, as it reflects the performance of the government in the health sector," the head of the National Development Planing Board (Bappenas), Paskah Suzetta, told a seminar Wednesday.
In 1994, Indonesia's maternal mortality rate was 390 per 100,000 live births. By 2004 it had decreased to 307 per 100,000. However, the figure remains the highest among Southeast Asian countries. The Human Development Report from the United Nation's Development Program shows the Philippines at 170, Vietnam at 95, Thailand at 36 and Malaysia at 30.
To accelerate the reduction of maternal mortality rates, the government, through Bappenas, has devised a strategy drawing expertise from fields as diverse as health, education, demography and transportation.
Paskah said the government had taken some action to reduce the number of maternal deaths, such as through the Health Ministry's "Making Pregnancy Safer Program". This program increased access for pregnant women to skilled health personnel, provided reference services, prevented unwanted pregnancies and addressed complications.
However, he said, the program had not yet significantly decreased the maternal mortality rate due to a lack of policy concurrence between the health sector and other pertinent sectors.
Sri Astuti Suparmanto, director-general of public health at the Health Ministry, said the indirect factors in maternity deaths, such as the level of a mother's education and the subordinate position of women in society, play a significant role. They can lead to hemorrhaging, eclampsia, infection, puerperal complications and abortion.
"Many women die because they fail to recognize the danger signals and delay making decisions, so they are late to reach health services," said Sri Astuti.
Nasaruddin Umar, director-general of Islamic religious guidance at the Religious Affairs Ministry, said that based on his experience in the province of West Nusa Tenggara, many religious teachings required reinterpretation because they mislead people about reproductive health.
He said the implementation of strategies to decrease the maternal mortality rate should involve local religious leaders.
"Most development programs in Indonesia cannot succeed without using religious language," Nasaruddin said.
The strategy to accelerate reductions in maternal death rates was built through the mapping of determinant factors and the analysis of the relationships between these factors, while also learning from best practices in Indonesia and other countries.
"A professional strategy without people's commitment will not work, and people's commitment without a professional strategy is a waste of resources," Paskah Suzetta said. (02)