Holy See Proposes How to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Urges "Delicate Balance" of Women's, Children's Rights

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GENEVA, Switzerland, JUNE 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Measures as basic as clean blood and water supplies, and a minimum marriage age of 18 could go a long way in reducing maternal mortality, according to a Holy See representative.



Archbishop Silvano Tomasi affirmed this last week at the U.N. offices in Geneva, when he addressed the regular session of the Human Rights Council. The text of his talk was released by the Vatican on Wednesday.

The archbishop, who is the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations in Geneva, referred to the "significant commitment and experience" the Catholic Church has in assisting mothers and newborns, experience dating back to "the earliest of times."

He called the number of maternal deaths each year "shocking," saying reliable indicators estimate it's about 350,000 a year, especially among the poorest populations.

"The Holy See's approach to maternal mortality," Archbishop Tomasi added, "is holistic, since it gives priority to the rights of mothers and child[ren], both those already born and those awaiting birth in the womb of the mother."

He noted the correlation between maternal and neonatal deaths, and said that "we should not forget that 3 million babies die annually during their first week of life, another 3 million are stillborn, [and] 2.3 million children die each year during their first year of life."

Improving the situation

The Holy See representative observed that maternal mortality rates have been reduced with higher per capita income, better education and an increasing availability of basic medical care.

In Africa, he continued, research shows maternal mortality could be reduced in HIV-positive mothers if they had access to antiretroviral medications.

The prelate added: "The availability of emergency obstetric care, including the provision of universal pre- and post-natal care, and adequate transport to medical facilities -- when necessary, skilled birth attendants, a clean blood supply and a clean water supply, appropriate antibiotics, and the introduction of a minimum age of 18 years for marriage, are all measures that could benefit both mothers and their children.

"Most importantly, if the international community wishes to effectively reduce the tragic rates of maternal mortality, respect for and promotion of the right to health and of access to medications must not only be spoken about, but also be put into action, by states as well as by non-governmental organizations and by civil society."

Archbishop Tomasi concluded by affirming that efforts to combat maternal and child mortality must "strike a delicate balance between the rights of mother and those of the child, both of whom are rights bearers, the first of which is the right to life."

"The maternity clinics and hospitals promoted by the Catholic Church do exactly that," he said. "They save the lives both of mothers and of child[ren], born and yet-to-be-born."

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-29709?l=english