By Chi Yvonne Leina
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Cameroon has pledged to reduce its maternal deaths by 75 percent from 1990 levels, but compared with that year, more women are now dying. Last year the government joined a regional campaign to accelerate progress on this key development goal.
Another reason is the lack of skilled birth attendants. A global forum earlier this year named the critical shortage of skilled health personnel in the world a major obstacle to meeting the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
About 63 percent of births are assisted by skilled attendants in Cameroon, according to UNICEF. This percentage is high compared with other countries, says a regional health official, but attendants are hobbled by a lack of equipment and low pay.
Health facilities are particularly scarce in rural areas, making it not uncommon for babies to be born on the side of the road.
Janine Ngum, 23, says this happened to her.
"I had my first baby by the roadside as I was trekking to the health center, and the second was almost born the same way," she says.
Now pregnant with her third child, Ngum says she is determined to deliver in a health center.
"For this third baby, I plan to go the health center three days before the due date and wait," she says.
Ngum says she goes for antenatal consultation the last Wednesday of every month at a health center two hours away. To reach it by 9 a.m., she wakes up at 5 a.m. to fetch water for her household, cook the day's meal and prepare her children for school. She starts the two-hour trek to the clinic at 7 a.m.
"It is very strenuous for me, but I must attend [the] clinic so that I will have no problem when I want to deliver my baby," she says.
Fomuso Mary, a retired family planning expert at the Bamenda General Hospital, says very few married women use family planning methods.
"Most of the women are still very skeptical about the idea, and so child spacing continues to pose a challenge to childbearing women," she says.
Less than 30 percent of women in Cameroon between 14 to 49 who are in unions with men use contraceptives, according to UNICEF's latest statistics.
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Chi Yvonne Leina joined Global Press Institute in 2011 after excelling in the Voices of Our Future training program put on by World Pulse, GPI and the OpEd Project. She reports for GPI's Cameroon News Desk.
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