Poor access to health care endangers pregnant Mexican women
July 25, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 a.m. EDT (1515 GMT)
From Correspondent Lucia Newman
ZAACHILA, Mexico (CNN) -- The mountains of Oaxaca are home to
thousands of indigenous Mexicans like Felipa, who has never
seen a doctor and did not go to a hospital to deliver any of
her five children, the youngest born just two months ago.
"There's no money around here, there's no work," she said.
"So how can I think of going to a hospital to have a baby?"
The vast majority of indigenous women who come to Zaachila, a
small Oaxaca mountain town, to sell wood on Thursdays have
their children at home. They have never had pre- or
postnatal care, even though health care in Mexico is
supposed to be universal, the right of every citizen. As a
result, every six hours a woman in Mexico dies in labor or
from other complications related to pregnancy.
Poverty, and an acute shortage of health facilities where
peasants need them, are most to blame. One family who wanted
to bring their baby to the doctor had to make the trip from a
remote mountain village eight hours away. That was too long
a trek for one of their neighbors, who recently died in
"Her stomach became inflated, and when she died, she burst
inside. There was blood coming out of her mouth and her
nose. There's no doctor nearby, that's why this happened,"
her neighbor said.
Health authorities in Mexico are only just beginning to
recognize the astonishingly high maternal mortality rate as a
"This is extremely critical, and the main thing is that everyone agrees that the problem should not
exist, and that the necessary resources must be designated to
prevent it," Jose Gomez de Leon of the National Population
But Dr. Marcela Martinez, Zaachila's municipal president,
is skeptical. "The government makes a lot of promises
that aren't kept," she said. "The money never arrives for
health services, because the corruption is horrible."
The former treasurer of Mexico's social security institution
is under arrest, accused of stealing $150 million of public
But even if the funds were not embezzled, they clearly are
not making it to Mexico's poorest women, the indigenous women
who live in isolated areas. They risk their lives every time
they have a child, in the same way their ancestors did
hundreds of years ago, as though nothing in Mexico had
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
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