Maternal Health and the Urban Poor of Sub-Saharan Africa

“One woman dies per minute in childbirth around the globe. Almost half of these deaths occur in Sub- Saharan Africa” (Maternal Health: Investing in the Lifeline of Healthy Societies & Economies). Many poor women across the world, living in the cities of developing countries suffer from inadequate maternal health care services.

In many developing countries, as industrialization and urbanization are on the rise, people are migrating into the cities. Populations in cities are growing faster than the infrastructure is, creating a lack of resources, and care. “In addition, Sub-Saharan Africa faces a deficit of skilled health soweto_townshipworkers. While the region accounts for 25% of the global disease burden, it represents only 4% of the global health workforce” (“High-Level Dialogue on Strengthening Public Health Security in Africa Calls forHuge Private Sector Investments in Health”). Hundreds of thousands of poor women live in slums, without proper access to healthcare or health professionals.

“Half of the 340,000 deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes each year occur in Africa” (Dugger).

In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has been huge population shift from rural to urban locations. A large portion of the population that has, and continues to migrate to cities, are young people. Many come in hopes of finding a job, or going to school. Because so many of the people migrating to cities are at reproductive age, maternal health is an increasingly important issue in cities within Sub-Saharan Africa (Magadi et al.).

Some argue that the urban poor have better access to maternal care due to proximity of resources, as opposed to rural dwellers. However, “large health-care disparities within cities would suggest that equal proximity to health facilities cannot be interpreted as equal access to services” (Magadi et al.). This means that even though women living in a city might be physically close to healthcare resources, they still may not be able to access them. The assumption that proximity equals access can be dangerous, because if people do not believe a problem exists, it will not be addressed. Many of the development projects surrounding improvement of maternal healthcare have been focused on rural areas because they lack resources in a way that cities do not. As a result of this, “the urban poor have benefited least from improvements in maternal health care” (Magadi et al.).

Research has shown that, “slums are predominantly served by privately owned and unlicensed health facilities with limited skilled staff and equipment, whereas most of the formal health facilities are located outside of the slums” (Fotso et al.). The quality of care provided at these facilities is less than optimal, and as a result, only about “48% deliver in facilities with at least minimum standards” (Fotso et al.). This means that women living in slums in Sub-Saharan Africa, are receiving less quality care than women of a higher socioeconomic class living in the same city. The resources are there, but the allocation must change to benefit more that just those who can afford them.

Fotso, Jean-Christophe, et al. “What Does Access to Maternal Care Mean Among the Urban Poor? Factors Associated with Use of Appropriate Maternal Health Services in the Slum Settlements of Nairobi, Kenya.” Maternal and Child Health Journal 13.1 (23 Feb. 2008): 130–137.

“High-level dialogue on strengthening public health security in Africa calls for huge private sector investments in health.” All Africa., 8 Nov. 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016. <>.

Magadi, Monica Akinyi, Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu, and Martin Brockerhoff. “The Inequality of Maternal Health Care in Urban Sub‐Saharan Africa in the 1990s.” Population Studies 57.3 (Nov. 2003): 347–366.

“Maternal Health: Investing in the Lifeline of Healthy Societies & Economies.” N.p.: The World Health Organization, 2010. PDF. 10 Nov. 2016. <>.

Dugger, Celia W. “Uganda Lacks Resources to Prevent Maternal Deaths.” Africa. The New York Times, 10 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2016. <>.

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