WINDHOEK: Maternal mortality in Namibia remains exceptional high and has made virtually no progress over the past two decades after independence.
United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepülveda raised the concern during a media conference on Monday at the end of her first fact-finding mission to Namibia.
The independent expert on extreme poverty arrived in Namibia on 01 October 2012, and visited the Omaheke, Kavango, Khomas, and Karas regions, where she met with Government officials, civil society organisations and communities living in poverty.
“This is a tragic, unacceptable and wholly preventable reality. I call on the government to make the reduction of maternal mortality an urgent priority,” she noted.
Sepülveda explained that decreasing maternal mortality requires a redoubling of efforts and full engagement of all relevant stakeholders in order to ensure universal and equal access to quality maternal health care.
Government should provide more maternal healthcare services and a more equitable distribution of trained staff between urban and rural areas. Community-based services must be expanded and solidified in order to overcome the obstacles women face in accessing health care facilities, according to Sepülveda.
On gender-based violence, she noted that it represents a serious human rights concern in Namibia.
She made reference to a recent report ‘Seeking Safety’ and issued by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) indicated that between 11 000 and 12 000 incidents gender-based violence are reported yearly.
Poverty is a contributing factor to, and a result of domestic violence in Namibia.
Sepülveda said women’s lower economic status and lack of economic autonomy create relationships of dependence and increase their vulnerability to abusive relationships.
Studies have shown that many female victims of violence experience continuing problems when turning to the Police.
She suggested training for Police officers in how to deal with victims.
Increased of public awareness of the negative impact of domestic violence is still needed, according to Sepülveda.
“Overall, it is clear to me that discrimination against women and their economic marginalization is preventing them from enjoying their human rights on an equal footing with Namibian men. I am particularly concerned about alarming rates of maternal mortality and the widespread prevalence of gender-based violence, “she added.
Sepülveda will present a full report on Namibia to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in June 2013.