Millennium Development Goal 5 has helped galvanize attention to and action for improving maternal care and survival for all women, especially during childbirth. Too often, however, women worldwide are suffering from disrespect and abuse, such as subtle humiliation, discrimination, and abandonment under a “veil of silence.”
This is both a human rights issue and an important quality of care problem. All women should have access to respectful, dignified and patient centered care when delivering their child. When women are able to access quality health services that they need and are able to protect themselves from the many health risks they face, long-term social and economic progress can be achieved. Maternal health and human rights stakeholders can all agree we need to continue to tackle this significant problem if we are to make the necessary progress towards increasing access to lifesaving health services. However, little attention has been paid to documenting and tackling the significant barriers posed by disrespect and abuse of women in facilities. That is, until now.
To address one of the key principles of U.S. Government’s Global Health Initiative, women and girl centered approach; USAID’s Global Health Bureau has developed an initiative to address disrespect and abuse during childbirth and will work collaboratively with partners to address barriers that prevent women from accessing lifesaving health services. Now a recently published USAID-funded report, Exploring Evidence and Action for Respectful Care at Birth, by Diana Bowser, Harvard School of Public Health, and Kathleen Hill, University Research Corporation, presents the evidence on manifestations of disrespect and abuse in facility-based childbirth, contributors to the problem, the negative impact on skilled care utilization, and approaches to tackle this human rights, ethical and quality-of-care problem. USAID supports advocacy efforts to address this issue and is funding grants to develop and evaluate interventions addressing disrespect and abuse in childbirth.
No woman should have to fear going to a health facility to deliver because she will be treated poorly, humiliated and possibly abused at her most vulnerable moment. This effort to increase the respectful treatment of women during childbirth will also address issues that keep women from using skilled attendants at birth –an important goal under MDG 5.
Deborah Armbruster, CNM, MPH, FACNM
Sr. Maternal and Newborn Health Advisor
Click here to read the report in its entirety.
Click here to download the brochure.