Countries at war get little aid for mothers and children

Countries that are at war such as Afghanistan, Sudan and Iraq get only US$1.30 a person a year in aid to help prevent mothers dying from childbirth and children dying before they are five, a study has found.

In war-affected countries, 1,041 pregnant women die for every 100,000 live births due to complications such as bleeding, infections and obstructed labour compared to nine such deaths in advanced countries with modern healthcare facilities.

In an article in PLoS Medicine, researchers in Britain said they trawled through databases kept by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations and found that a total of US$20.8 billion was given each year between 2003 and 2006 to 18 countries that were affected by war.

These 18 were among the least developed countries in the world and which were considered as being affected by war or conflict between 2003 and 2006.

Out of this total, US$509.3 million, or 2.4 percent, was allocated to reproductive health. This amounts to just US$1.30 for each person per year.

Reproductive health concerns women dying at childbirth and children dying before the age of five from malaria, malnutrition, measles, diarrhea and acute respiratory diseases.

In comparison, developing nations which were not at war – such as Bangladesh, Malawi and Cambodia – were getting an average of US$2.50 a person a year.

“The amount is higher for nonconflict-affected least-developed countries despite the fact that conflict-affected least-developed countries appear to have generally worse reproductive health indicators,” wrote the researchers, led by Preeti Patel of King’s College London and Bayard Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

In underdeveloped countries that were unaffected by war, 720 women die from childbirth for every 100,000 live births.

The article did not address why countries in conflict got less aid than those that were not at war.

Paul Speigel of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who was not involved with the study, said donor nations must address this disparity.

“If the world is to meet the Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to child mortality, maternal health, and HIV/AIDS, then reproductive health issues related to conflict and post-conflict settings must be better understood and addressed in a more equitable manner than is currently the case,” he said.

The paper is available at: doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000090

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