Like most of the concerned entities and individuals in Namibia, NamRights is alarmed, though not necessarily surprised, at the sudden media reports on the very high maternal mortality rates (MMRs) in Namibia, as demonstrated by shocking statistics.
According to the said reports, such deaths have been occurring in the country’s state health institutions for a number of years now. Moreover, on January 29 2008, the state-owned New Era newspaper reported that Namibia’s MMR has “shot up despite Namibia being one of the leading countries in reporting progress on child survival,” while on July 6 2010, USAID also reported that “maternal mortality rates in Namibia have sky-rocketed from 271 per 100 000 births in 2001 to 449 deaths in 2008.”
However, WHO-related statistics show that Namibia’s MMR has drastically improved from 449 mother deaths per every 100 000 live births in 2008 to only 180 maternal deaths per every 100 000 live births in 2011.
Now to hear all of sudden that mothers have actually been dying at such an alarming rate for some time now, one must only question whether UN’s MMR statistics (of 180 maternal deaths for every 100 000 live births) are credible and accurate. After all, there could hardly have been any improvement in the country’s MMR ratings, without the corresponding improvement in the critical shortage of health professionals and or without an exponential reduction in the levels of negligence and lack of administrative accountability at Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS).
Hence, NamRights also blames those (not all) UN agencies, whose resident representatives have a tendency of singing uncritical praises for the Government of Namibia’s (GRN) performance in the health sector in particular. The mandates of the various conventional and or extra-conventional UN agencies are not to sing uncritical praises for any UN Member States, but rather to play critical watchdog roles so as to ensure that all UN Member States comply with the provisions of both the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Nor are UN country agencies there to engage in any immoral diplomacy. Rather, they are there to produce accurate and factual reports, which would put the whole UN system in a better picture and position to accomplish its mission statement, as contemplated under Article 1 (3) of the UN Charter, inter alia. We therefore urge the UNDP Resident Representative in Namibia to comment on these shocking MMR statistics.
In terms of UN-sanctioned international law, the respect, protection and realisation of the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is inextricably linked with and dependent upon the realisation of all other human rights. The right to health embraces a wide range of socio-economic factors that create healthy conditions, such as adequate housing, education, adequate sanitation and safe and healthy working conditions, as well as a safe and clean environment.
Hence, the failure to perform in the health sector is often viewed as smoking-gun evidence of non-performance in most other human rights fields, simply because all human rights are inter-related, inter-connected, inter-dependent and indivisible. Moreover, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) interprets the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as an inclusive right extending, not only to the provision of timely and appropriate health care, but also to other underlying determinants of health, such as access to health-related education and information, including information about sexual and reproductive health. In terms of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4-6, GRN is also under international obligation to reduce, by two-thirds child mortality rates and to improve by three-quarters maternal health by 2015. NamRights has very serious doubt that MDGs 4-6 will ever be achieved, as scheduled by 2015.
Namibia’s shockingly high maternal and child mortality deaths are attributed to a severe shortage of health professionals in the country, as well as to gross negligence on the part of those in GRN who are entrusted with ensuring the respect, protection and realisation of the right of every Namibian to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.