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Case of maternal morbidity in Brazil goes before the CEDAW committee.

In an unprecedented action on maternal mortality and human rights, New York's Center for Reproductive Rights and the Rio de Janeiro NGO Advocaci filed a complaint with the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Alyne Case involves a young woman of African descent who died as a result of the lack of timely emergency obstetric care.

This is the first time the CEDAW Committee has considered an incident related to maternal mortality in Brazil. The process entails clearly establishing that the deaths of women during pregnancy, labor and post-partum are violations of their fundamental rights and presenting a demand for social justice before the public institution responsible for protecting these rights.

CEDAW has notified the Brazilian government that it has until August of this year to render a decision regarding the case. The Committee members will analyze the case following the presentation of the facts and the official arguments.

Brazil's Rede Nacional Feminista de Saude, Direitos Sexuais e Direitos Reproductivos (National Feminist Network for Health, Sexual rights and Reproductive Rights), with the support of the Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network (LACWHN), is promoting an urgent national, regional and global action to gather signatures in a show of support for the Alyne Case. The purpose of this effort is to demand that the government make reducing maternal mortality a national priority and provide all the necessary resources, adequately adjust existing national policies and establish effective mechanisms for monitoring this issue.

The Rede, which is a member of the Executive Commission of the National Convention for Reducing Maternal and Neonatal Mortality, has been fighting on several fronts to ensure that effective and timely measures are taken to prevent and reduce the HIV epidemic; prevent and reduce violence against women and girls; provide answers to the matter of unsafe abortion; and emphasize the importance of quality health services. All these issues are directly related to women's sexual and reproductive health and maternal mortality.

The Alyne Case

Alyne da Silva Pimentel was a 28-year-old woman of African descent who died in 2002 when she was eight-months pregnant. Alyne sought medical attention at a health clinic in Rio de Janeiro because she was not feeling well. She died five days later from internal bleeding following a misdiagnosis and delayed emergency obstetric care. The women's health movement describes this situation as the result of discrimination and inequality linked to gender, race/ethnicity and social class, all of which are key factors for increasing the risk of maternal mortality. Therefore, the movement has chosen to support the complaint that has been filed with international agencies and the efforts that have been made to work with government authorities.

The following is an English-language translation of the petition in support of this effort:

"We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, call on the Brazilian government to safeguard women's right to life, health and equality, taking effective actions to prevent maternal mortality. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an international agency that forms part of the United Nations system, nearly 4,100 women die each year in Brazil due to complications related to pregnancy and labor.

"Over one fourth of all maternal deaths in Latin America occur in Brazil. According to the World Bank, the country's maternal mortality rate is three to ten times higher than that of countries with similar income levels. However, although 98% of these maternal deaths can be prevented, the government has not addressed this problem with the urgency that it demands. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), this situation could be easily reversed. In developing countries, it costs between 1 and 2 dollars per person per year to provide the essential services required to reduce maternal mortality. The Brazilian government has not only failed to reduce maternal mortality, but it has not even been capable of keeping rates from climbing. Over the past 15 years, the nation's maternal mortality rate has actually risen slightly.

"The case of Alyne da Silva Pimentel Teixeira reflects the reality that is endured by thousands of women each year in Brazil. Alyne was a pregnant, 28-year-old Brazilian woman of African descent who sought medical care at the local hospital because she was suffering from pregnancy-related complications. Alyne and her family never imagined that four days later she would be dead as a result of the negligence and delays of the Brazilian health system.

"By failing to implement effective policies and programs that address the high rates of maternal mortality, Brazil is violating its obligations under national and international human rights law that guarantee women's rights to life, health and equality.

"We therefore demand that the Brazilian government:

"Effectively consider reducing maternal mortality as a priority for national health policy, providing the necessary resources, adjusting existing policies and establishing effective monitoring and oversight mechanisms."

For more information, visit the website of the Center for Reproductive the website of the Rede Feminista de Saude,
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Title Annotation:NEWS AND MEETINGS; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Publication:Women's Health Journal
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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