Officials from 22 African countries called on the continent's nations Friday to do more to save the lives of pregnant women, hundreds of thousands of whom die each year.
More than 1,000 pregnant women die around the world each day from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, or from illegal abortions, according to a study by the United Nations Children's Fund.The study was the focus of a five-day conference of French-speaking African nations, which called the deaths the "shame of modern times."
"That a woman loses life in giving life is as intolerable as it is unjust," a conference declaration said.
About 450 pregnant women per 100,000 die each year in underdeveloped nations, including those in Africa, compared with 30 per 100,000 in the West.
Health ministers, doctors and representatives of African women's organizations were among the participants of the conference, which ended Friday. The sponsors were UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.
They said the conference was part of an effort to get Third World countries to devote more time and resources to saving the lives of pregnant women.
A similar conference was held two years ago in Nairobi, Kenya, for English-speaking African nations.
Participants said Africa should try to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth by 50 percent in the next 25 years.
According to U.N. studies, African women furnish 80 percent of the food their families eat.
At least 63 percent of pregnant women in Africa suffer from anemia and vitamin deficiencies that affect the health of their infant, according to a UNICEF report.
Throughout Africa, women also marry young and often have their first child before age 15.