News & Blog

Why is the maternal mortality rate so high in sub-Saharan Africa?

February 2nd, 2024 | Posted By: Heidi Cortez | Posted in News, Vill-Angel Medical Clinic

In rural Kenya, a woman went into labor at home and began to have complications. She rode on the back of the motorcycle to the nearest hospital, two hours away. There, on the back of this motorcycle, she began to hemorrhage as the motorcycle traversed rough terrain. Sadly, both she and her newborn were pronounced dead before they arrived at the hospital.

This situation is all too common in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for over 50% of maternal deaths and close to 7,000 newborn deaths each day. Most of these deaths are preventable. Maternal mortality refers to the number of mothers who die related to pregnancy.

What are the leading causes?

Like in the story, the leading cause of maternal mortality is hemorrhage, where a woman loses too much blood during birth. Other leading causes of maternal mortality are eclampsia (marked by seizures or convulsions during birth), pregnancy-related infections, and other complications.

Why is it so high?

There are systemic issues that lead to high maternal mortality, including:

  • Lack of Healthcare access 
    In rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa, the nearest hospital can be hours away. Many communities may have a small clinic, but it may not be equipped with skilled staff or proper equipment to address common birth complications adequately.
  • Poor Infrastructure
    Poor roads, faulty communication systems, and inadequate transport cause major delays in emergencies. Women at local clinics who are referred to hospitals may not have access to an ambulance, the ability to communicate with the hospital, or may need to travel on rough roads to get there. In pregnancy, time is critical and can mean the difference between life or death.
  • Poor health-seeking behavior
    Many women do not have access to antenatal care or visits leading up to pregnancy. Many potential issues can often be caught before pregnancy and help the woman and her healthcare provider to prepare, avoiding complications. Likewise, rural communities often need education on the benefits of skilled deliveries and how to ensure their health and safety, knowing potential warning signs. Many women decide to give birth at home, apart from a skilled birth attendant, which raises their chances of complications.

Maternal Mortality in Kenya

In a recent publication produced by the World Health Organization, Kenya’s maternal mortality rate is characterized as “very high”. Between 2017 to 2020, the country’s maternal mortality rate grew by 55%, affecting rural regions disproportionately to urban areas. The country was also ranked “very low”
 for providing obstetric services. The government is working on changing this trend with better access to health and maternal services and widespread insurance.

Angel Covers in Rural Kenya

Angel Covers currently has trained staff able to facilitate safe births in a region where many lack access to healthcare and he maternal mortality rate is high. Our plan is to grow this program with the addition of a neonatal and maternal wing that will provide 24/7 care. We will also hire an additional nurse who is skilled in deliveries and purchase vital equipment needed for common complications. 

The Toll of Newborn Deaths in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa

September 9th, 2023 | Posted By: Heidi Cortez | Posted in News, Vill-Angel Medical Clinic | Tagged , , , , ,

Neonatal mortality (NNM) (deaths per live births within the first 28 days of life) remains a severe problem worldwide. Despite advancements in improving infant and under-five mortality, neonatal mortality has not seen the same improvements. Thousands of babies under 28 days die every day from preventable causes. According to UNICEF, most of these deaths occur in rural sub-Saharan Africa.   It is estimated that 30 million babies will… Read More

Trafficked After Escaping Conflict- Burmese Girls in Thailand

June 27th, 2023 | Posted By: Heidi Cortez | Posted in GATE | Tagged , , ,

As violence in Myanmar continues, thousands flee to neighboring Thailand. The Burmese government continues to carry out airstrikes against civilians they deem terrorists or rebel groups, killing men, women, and children[1]. Left with no choice, refugees travel across the border to nearby Thailand, hoping for peace and a better life. Unfortunately, they are met with a different danger. Stateless people residing in Thailand’s Hill Tribe… Read More

Maternal Mortality in Rural Kenya- Challenges and Opportunities

April 8th, 2023 | Posted By: Heidi Cortez | Posted in Vill-Angel Medical Clinic | Tagged , ,

In 2020, a mother died every two minutes from preventable causes. Most of these deaths occur in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya’s government is committed to meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3 to “ensure the health and well-being of all.” The government remains particularly committed to reducing maternal mortality, which has lagged in the country despite other areas of health progress. In Kenya, more… Read More

Trafficking- Prevention is Power

March 24th, 2023 | Posted By: Heidi Cortez | Posted in GATE | Tagged , ,

For girls at risk of trafficking: prevention is the best policy. Tigger warning: talks of abuse  Places like Pattaya, Thailand, look like idyllic vacation hotspots on the surface. Restaurants, karaoke bars, and massage parlors line the beach-front city. However, it doesn’t take much to see the pervasiveness of the sex industry. In towns like this, child prostitution is not rare, and up to 33% of… Read More

Angel Covers Hires New Executive Director

February 24th, 2023 | Posted By: Heidi Cortez | Posted in News

Denver, CO 21 February 2023: Angel Covers, a global development nonprofit based in Denver, announced Heidi Cortez has accepted the position of Executive Director, effective February 1, 2023. Cortez takes over for longstanding Executive Director and co-founder, Kari Fillmore, who has led the development and growth of the organization since its inception in 2002. In her new role, Cortez will be responsible for day-to-day operations,… Read More

Sinlaku Disaster Relief

August 12th, 2020 | Posted By: dwgadmin | Posted in GATE, News

After months of drought, in early August Tropical Storm Sinlaku caused widespread flooding in Northern Thailand, which has affected students in the GATE Program. Strong winds and heavy rain left more than 2,000 families homeless, and landslides and flash floods damaged many roads and made the area inaccessible. Once the waters receded, students and their teachers returned to school to begin cleaning up and recovering… Read More

Back to School

July 10th, 2020 | Posted By: Kari Fillmore | Posted in GATE, News

After nearly four months off due to Covid-19, GATE students returned to school on July 1st. This semester, schools were closed longer than usual because of Covid-19. Children spent time studying online, and teachers from the schools also brought worksheets for children to do at home. Families suffered because students do not have computers and had to do schoolwork on phones, which required families to… Read More

Covid-19 Impact

April 20th, 2020 | Posted By: Kari Fillmore | Posted in GATE, News

Covid-19 has disrupted the lives of thousands around the globe. Gan visited our GATE students in April to find out how their families had been impacted. The girls in our GATE program have been on our minds a lot lately, along with our facilitator in Thailand. Gan is a devoted nurse who tirelessly volunteers her time to help identify students in need, and visits them… Read More

The Humble Hearts Fruit Program

March 3rd, 2020 | Posted By: Megan Reddy | Posted in News

An apple a day is…a luxury item? For many of us, it’s a staple of our day-to-day diet. In Kenya, a piece of fruit is a luxury item. For many poor families, the average cost of $0.25 for a piece of fruit is a considerable sum. As a result, most children living in poverty are unlikely to have even one piece of fruit… Read More