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Reducing maternal mortality is urgent
Latinamerica Press
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Almost 20 percent of maternal deaths happen to adolescents.

According to the 2013 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme, for every 100,000 live births, 150 women die in the Dominican Republic, a number that places the country in fourth place among the highest rate of maternal mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean, surpassed only by Bolivia (190), Guyana (280), and Haiti (350).

With the intent to reduce this rate, the National Institute of Health (INSALUD) inaugurated on March 4 the Maternal Mortality Observatory as “a community center [that is] autonomous, inter-institutional and inter-sectoral, with the objective of establishing participation and dialogue among civil society, the media, academia, cooperation agencies, and the State, to follow up on initiatives and public policies of priority and to have an impact on the reduction of maternal mortality,” explained Giselle Scanlon, Executive Director of INSALUD.

Data from the 2007 National Health and Demographic Survey reveal that 19 percent of maternal deaths happen to adolescents. The 2013 Human Development Report calculates the adolescent fertility rate at 103.6 births for every 1,000 women between 15 and 19 years of age.

The most frequent causes of maternal mortality are arterial hypertension, hemorrhages, abortions, and birth complications. Gestational diabetes is an additional problem in the case of adolescent mothers.

According to the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Progress Report, “the maternal mortality rate remains high despite the fact that a large percentage of births occur in health centers and are attended by specialized personnel, as is prenatal care.”

Mirna Montenegro, Director of the Guatemala Reproductive Health Observatory (OSAR), highlighted the importance of observatories in health policy.

OSAR, said Montenegro during the presentation, “has been created as a permanent forum that offers opportunities for the participation of women, civil society, professionals and investigators to help create and spread information to reduce inequalities in the health system. This observatory bases its work on systematic tracking and the application of tools to build indicators and data collection that allows [the public] to count on timely and quality information in regards to the progress and the challenges of the policy implementation process.”

Similar efforts exist in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Uruguay.

Teenage pregnancy prevention
The National Plan for Teenage Pregnancy Prevention was created in 2011. Its aim is to “strengthen, coordinate and articulate public policies aimed at reverting the alarming teenage pregnancy rate among women between 13 and 19 years old.”

Elaborated within the framework of the National Development Strategy, the plan “is an integral, multi-sectoral answer [that incorporates] the participation of the society, aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies in the Dominican Republic.” The plan is expected to be implemented until 2016 through the Inter-institutional Technical Committee on Teenage Pregnancy Prevention, made up of the Office of the First Lady, the Women’s Ministry, Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Education, and international organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization, the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF among other public and private organizations.

The UNFPA considers that a key element to preventing teenage pregnancies is comprehensive sexual education that helps the youth “make conscientious and responsible decisions, to make life goals, to increase personal care and avoid risky situations. More concretely, adolescents with knowledge on this issue tend to delay sex, can avoid unplanned pregnancies, can better take care of their health to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STI), and have more probabilities of reducing HIV/AIDS infections.”

The Affective Sexual Education Program in the Dominican Republic has been run for more than 10 years. The program, which is taught in schools, was conceived as “a process that differs at each step of human development [and that] will have specific characteristics in each stage, emphasizing human rights, gender equality and the prevention of unplanned pregnancies, exploitation and sexual violence, abortions, and STI/HIV/AIDS.” —
Latinamerica Press.

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