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Toolkit on gender, transport and maternal mortality in Africa

Margaret Grieco, Professor of Transport and Society,
Transport Research Institute, Napier University and Visiting Full Professor, Institute for African Development, Cornell University.

Vs3, March 2005

Website on Maternal Mortality in Africa and its relationship to poor transport infrastucture:
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Introduction: Why gender and transport?

There is a relationship between mobility, power and well being. The differences between male and female travel patterns and the cultural rules and roles associated with these differences are undercharted in the policy environment. The impact of constrained mobility on bargaining also has its impact on what comes to be available as resource and service within local constraints. No better demonstration of these constraints can be found than in Africa's portrait of maternal mortality: constraints on mobility and on the resources for mobility and accessibility have devastating consequences for women's health on the African continent.

Why Africa?

There is a need for a re-examination of 'the politics of priority': health or wealth? Many of the heated policy discussions around growth versus poverty reduction as the priority are had without reference to the scale of the crisis in maternal well being. Maternal mortality is not simply fatal but is often a cruel and harsh lived experience for Africa's women. And yet OECD's evaluation of the costs of drastically reducing maternal mortality in Africa indicates that this can be done without the need for significant increases in the wealth of the continent. It is a matter of organisation and part of that organisation is the provision of transport facilities and hostel provision for those in need of, or likely to need, emergency obstetric care.

  • Ironically, maternal mortality - death because of distance from health facilities - is increasing in Africa at the same point as there is a global discourse on the 'death of distance'.
  • The mapping of mobility entitlements and accessibility patterns against gender, and the consequences of these patterns, is not adequate.
  • Similarly the measurement of maternal mortality and women’s health has been under-resourced with the consequence that current overviews are inadequate and operational and evaluative knowledge on best practice interventions is weak.
  • There does seem to be a strong relationship between poor transport organization and high levels of maternal mortality.
  • There is a clear ground in which improvements in information technology could help reduce rates of maternal mortality.
  • A set of mobility and empowerment factors need to be considered and addressed in any campaign to reduce maternal mortality.
  • The reduction of maternal mortality is a Millenium Development Goal.
  • The policy discussion is short on suggestions on how to realise this goal - and the contribution that safe motherhood transport plans could make to this reduction is under-operationalised.
Visit the website on Maternal Mortality in Africa and its relationship to poor transport infrastucture:

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