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Maternal Health Project

Maternal Mortality in Africa

Alaffia's Maternal Health Project
~ Number of women provided with full prenatal and delivery care 2006-2014: 3,237
~ Number of maternal deaths: 0
~ Number of infant deaths: 0

Conclusion:Simple prenatal care can drastically reduce maternal death rates in West Africa.
Funded by sales of Alaffia products

Maternal mortality is the death of a woman during or shortly after a pregnancy. Maternal mortality rates (MMRs) remain alarmingly high in Africa, even as they decrease elsewhere in the world. Every day in West Africa, for example, approximately 225 women and 1,200 newborns die from complications in childbirth. Furthermore, for each maternal death that occurs, 20 to 30 women suffer from pregnancy-related disabilities such as anemia, obstetric fistulae, and even infertility(1,2,4,5).

Maternal Health Recipient

Alaffia Maternal Heath Project recipients

Maternal Health Recipients

Alaffia Maternal Heath Project recipients

Maternal mortality also has a multitude of effects on families and communities. When a mother dies, her children are left without their primary care giver. Studies have shown increased childhood mortality and reduced nutritional status in motherless children in West Africa (3). These children move more frequently and are less likely to stay in school. Poor nutrition and lack of education during childhood exacerbate poverty situations. Therefore, our conclusion is that addressing the maternal mortality rates in our communities is essential for our goal of alleviating poverty.

Why are Maternal Mortality Rates so High in Africa?

A multitude of studies across sub-Saharan Africa show that most maternal deaths are clearly preventable by direct treatment or improvements in overall health care. The majority of maternal deaths occur as a result of treatable and preventable conditions such as hemorrhage, infection, eclampsia and prolonged labor. These direct causes of maternal deaths are influenced by environmental factors, such as poverty, lack of education, and poor access to quality medical service. Maternal and neonatal health programs remain severely under-funded in West African nations, contributing to unnecessary death and suffering for thousands of women, children and their families in the region.

How can improvements be made?

Experts in maternal health have identified five key critical areas for improving Maternal Mortality Rates in Africa: human rights, empowerment of women, education, socio-economic development and the improvement of health systems (7). In addition, several in-depth studies at the community level have determined that the most critical of all the factors is access to quality maternity care before, during and after childbirth. The World Health Organization recommends the following to help reduce maternal mortality across the world (8):

  1. Better resource management and efficient application of existing knowledge to provide proper maternal care, including basic care during and after pregnancy and adequate and timely specialized care.
  2. Income and gender equality and community empowerment to strengthen community involvement in using indigenous knowledge, participating in education, training and research, and improving primary health care skills.
Maternal Health Recipients
2008 Project recipients greet Olowo-n'djo
Alaffia's Response: Maternal Health Project

It is inexcusable that hundreds of thousands women die each year from entirely preventable complications. Although, to combat the entire problem requires interventions and changes from all parties, governments, individuals, international and local organizations it is also possible to make small efforts with real results in our local communities. When our Founder's sister died from complications after the birth of her third child in 2004, we started our Fousena Fund in her memory. This was the beginning of our Maternal Health Project to reduce maternal mortality in our central Togo communities.

Project Scope and Details

Alaffia partners with several local health clinics in central Togo to provide prenatal care and post natal followups for 400 women each year. A growing number of studies is showing that the single largest impact on maternal mortality chances are access to prenatal care and birthing professionals (physicians or qualified midwives).(4,5,6) Each participant in our Maternal Health program receive a monthly checkup, prenatal vitamins, any necessary medications (antibiotics, etc...), and delivery care. We continue to follow the mothers and their babies for six months after birth. Since our program began, we have not lost a single mother or child.

Additional Maternal Mortality Statistics

~ More than half of the 600,000 women who die worldwide each year from pregnancy-related causes are in sub-Saharan Africa

~ This region accounts for only 12% of the world's population and 17% of its births.

~ MMRs in sub-Saharan Africa actually increased 13% from 1990 to 2001.

~ Maternal mortality rates are almost three times higher in rural areas than urban centers.

~ The lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 16 In sub-Saharan Africa, for developed nations only 1 in 2,800.

Maternal Health Project
Olowo-n'djo, Alaffia's founder, meets with clinic nurses.
Causes of Maternal Mortality

~ Neglect of women's health is the major contributing cause of high levels of maternal mortality.

~ Over 74% of maternal deaths are from preventable causes:

  • 25 percent of all maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhaging
  • 15 percent of maternal deaths are caused by poor hygiene during delivery and untreated sexually transmitted diseases

~ Anemia exacerbates maternal health issues (up to 80% of women in sub-Saharan Africa are anemic)


1. Bouvier-Colle, M. H., C. Ouedraogo, A. Dumont, C. Vangeenderhuysen, B. Salanave, C. Decam. 2001. Maternal mortality in West Africa: Rates, causes and substandard care from a prospective survey. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 80(2): 113 119
2. Collymore, Y. Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Tracking and Reducing Maternal Deaths Presents Major Challenges (, 2005)
3. Gracey, M. 2004. Orphaned and vulnerable to infection, undernutrition and early death: increasing threats to infants and children Acta Paediatrica. 93(1):8 9
4. Grieco, M.2005. Maternal mortality: Africa's burden- Toolkit on Gender, transport and maternal mortality. Vs4 -04-2005
5. Lamb WH, Foord FA, Lamb CM, Whitehead RG. Changes in maternal and child mortality rates in three isolated Gambian villages over ten years. The Lancet. 324(8408):912-914
6. Ronsmans C, Etard JF, Walraven G, L, Dumont A, de Bernis L, Kodio B. 2003. Maternal mortality and access to obstetric services in West Africa. Trop Med Int Health. 8(10):940-8
7. World Health Organization (WHO), Maternal Mortality in 2005: Estimates Developed by WHO, UNICEF, and UNFPA (Geneva: WHO, 2005).
8. World Heath Organization (WHO), The Road to Safe Motherhood ( WHO, 2006).