Peru: 'Scandalous' rates of maternal mortality says Amnesty-new report

Hundreds of poor, rural and Indigenous pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Peru are dying because they are effectively being denied the same health services other Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in the country receive, Amnesty International concluded in a new report today (9 July).

The report ‘Fatal Flaws: Barriers to Maternal Health in Peru’ explored the high levels of maternal mortality amongst poor and Indigenous Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in rural Peru and evaluates the impact of recent government policies designed to tackle the problem.

Peru has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the Americas. According to official figures, 185 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights die for every 100,000 live births in Peru. The United Nations puts the number even higher at 240. Most of these are rural, poor and Indigenous Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

Amnesty International’s Peru Researcher Nuria Garcia said:

“The rates of maternal mortality in Peru are scandalous. The fact that so many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are dying from preventable causes is a human rights violation. The Peruvian state is simply ignoring its obligation to provide adequate maternal healthcare to all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, regardless of who they are and where they live.”

Amnesty International’s report highlights that pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Peru die because they face a number of barriers, including: lack of access to emergency obstetric care, unavailability of information on maternal health and lack of health staff who can speak Indigenous languages.

According to the 2007 National Census of Indigenous Peoples, nearly 60 per cent of the communities covered by the census did not have access to a health facility.

Nuria Garcia continued:

“Health services for pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Peru are like a lottery: if you are poor and Indigenous, the chances are you will always lose.”

Amnesty International met one man who spoke about how his mother died in childbirth nine years ago. From Ccarhuacc, one of the poorest areas in Peru, the mother of José Meneses Salazar avoided going to check-ups out of fear that the staff would treat her badly. When she went into labour, the midwife at the nearest health post was on leave, so relatives delivered the baby themselves. After the baby was born, the placenta did not come out and they did not know what to do. Two hours later the mother died. The baby girl survived.

Amnesty International’s report also assessed the impact of a number of government policies aimed at reducing the rates of maternal mortality, including the increase of maternal waiting houses – rooms where Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who live a long way from health centres can stay before the birth – greater promotion of the vertical birth method common among Indigenous Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Peru and implementation of Quechua language teaching for health professionals.

While welcoming the new initiatives, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and health professionals consulted by Amnesty International in Peru complained they are not being effectively implemented and questioned their real impact.

Amnesty International found that even though the number of waiting houses has risen more than threefold in the last eight years, only half of them are in rural areas, where Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights most need of emergency obstetric care.

Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and local civil society organisations have told Amnesty International that training for health professionals on the vertical birth methods is not sufficiently widespread. According to Peru’s Human Rights Ombudsperson, more than 45 per cent of health staff last year said they had not received appropriate training.

Although there have been government initiatives to provide Quechua training to health professionals, its use is not widespread and many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights from Indigenous communities whose first language is not Spanish cannot communicate with them.

Nuria Garcia said:

“Official initiatives to reduce maternal mortality are good news. However, lack of clear responsibilities for implementing them and the absence of effective resourcing and monitoring puts any initiative in great jeopardy.”

Amnesty International urged the Peruvian authorities to allocate resources to maternal mortality and reproductive health care in a way that prioritises regions with the highest mortality ratios in order to ensure that all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have equal access to access emergency obstetric care in case of complications during birth. It also recommended an increase in training for health professionals and the provision of Indigenous language support in all health centres.

  • read the report

View latest press releases