i. Maternal Mortality
Since the majority of indicators suggest a gradual improvement in population health in Namibia during the past two decades, it is worrying to note that maternal health appears to be worsening. Indeed, maternal mortality – the number of women who died during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after giving birth – has been rising in Namibia since the beginning of the 1990s, and actually doubled within six short years, increasing from 227 per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 449 per 100,000 live births in 2006. Although some of this increase can be attributed to more accurate data collection instruments and the effects of HIV, there is an urgent need to identify and address the primary underlying causes of this unacceptably high level of maternal death.
ii. Unsafe Abortion
Teenage pregnancies are an important health concern due to their association with higher maternal (and infant) morbidity and mortality; furthermore, early childbearing has a well-documented negative impact on the subsequent educational and socio-economic status of the mother and her household. In this light, it is particularly worrying to note that by age 17 more than one fifth of Namibian women have begun childbearing, while in some regions nearly one-third of girls ages 15-19 have given birth. Teenage pregnancies are closely linked with the widespread practice of unsafe abortion and so-called ‘baby-dumping’, both of which appear to be increasing in Namibia. Although no recent data are available, a nationwide survey from 1998 revealed that 32% of women who were admitted to hospital with (unsafe) abortion-related complications were in the age range of 15-24. Furthermore, 16% of all maternal deaths in Namibia were shown to be due to (unsafe) abortion-related complications, with more than half of these women being under the age of 25.