Sepsis is New Silence Cause of Maternal and Infant Deaths In Sub-Sahara Africa

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Sepsis has been identified as a new silence cause of maternal and newborn deaths in Sub-Sahara Africa.
According to MamaYe infograph that illustrates a new trend of maternal and newborn deaths in Sub-Sahara Africa, sepsis kills at least 154,000 newborn babies annually. “Every year, 1,027,000 newborn babies die of which 154 000 of these deaths are caused by sepsis”, it stated.

Improving maternal health was one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the international community in 2000. Under MDG5, countries committed to reducing maternal mortality by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped by 45%.

Sepsis could reverse progress made so far in reducing maternal and newborn babies deaths if nothing is done about it.


Mayo Clinic which specializes in women health reports that, sepsis is a potentially life-threatening infection for new born babies and expectant mothers. According to Mohammed Latif, a medical Assistant at the Yendi Hospital, sepsis occurs when chemicals are released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body.

He explained that this inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ system,causing them to fail. “If sepsis progresses to septic shock, blood pressure drops dramatically, which may lead to death of newborn babies or expectant mothers”, he said.

Almost every person can develop sepsis, but it is most common and most dangerous in older adults or those with weakened immune systems. Treating sepsis at early state, usually with antibiotics and large amounts of intravenous fluids improves the chances of survival of the patient he added.

Until recently, attention has not been paid to sepsis as a contributory factor or cause of maternal and newborn babies’ deaths. Most sepsis related deaths are not recorded and remain invisible.

The survival and health of newborn babies is a critical part of the push towards lower child mortality and achievement of goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve this push requires concerted efforts to harmonize health systems that would provide clean and hygienic environment for expectant mother,access to maternal health information and education to keep mothers, unborn and new babies healthy.

UNICEF report which tracks progress and promotes accountability for global commitments to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health also highlighted great progress that has been made in saving the lives of children under the age of five since the MDG targets were set in 1990. The report however said greater efforts are still needed to drive faster progress, especially in areas where inequalities persist.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that newborn deaths have dropped from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009 but fell only slightly during the last decade. It said more investment into health care for women and children since 2000 as a result of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) resulted in more rapid progress for the survival of mothers (2.3% per year) and under-five children (2.1% per year) than for newborns (1.7% per year).

An improved health care for pregnant women and newborn babies is critical to attainment of SDGs goal #3. The MamaYe infograph revelation of sepsis as a silent cause of maternal and newborn deaths would mean that more attention should be given measures that promotes clean and safe childbirth. Sepsis could be a threat to achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 3) if prevention of sepsis is overlooked.

In line with this, Savana Signatures’ Technology for Maternal Health (T4MH) is providing vital maternal health information to expectant mothers to keep them and their newborn babies safe. These messages are easy-to-understand and packaged in local dialects of the subscriber. Over 1000 rural women have welcomed the project and subscribed to the system.

They are now receiving vital maternal health information especially regarding their gestation periods, personal hygiene practices, nutrition and healthy living during pregnancy and lactation. This has however contributed to a reduced maternal and infants deaths in project health facilities.