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Report says reproductive problems disable millions

At least 1-million women die each year and more than 100-million suffer disabling illnesses from childbirth, unsafe abortion and pregnancy complications, according to a study released Saturday. Reproductive problems are the leading killer of women of childbearing age throughout the Third World, but Worldwatch Institute contends most of the deaths could be prevented with better access to health care and contraception.

"A deadly combination of high birth rates and little or no access to contraception, safe abortion and maternal care lies behind these numbers," the report said.

Jodi Jacobson, author of the report, said the annual number of deaths from reproductive causes will double by the end of the decade "without a reordering of priorities in health care and family planning."

Jacobson based her annual estimate of at least 1-million reproductive-related deaths worldwide on World Health Organization figures that show:

A half-million women die annually from pregnancy-related causes, all but about 6,000 in developing countries. A woman's chance of dying from a pregnancy-related cause is 1 in 21 in Africa, 1 in 54 in Asia and 1 in 73 in South America.

Cervical cancer related to human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection, kills 354,000 a year.

AIDS claims 100,000 women's lives annually.

The estimate is considered conservative because it doesn't include deaths from pelvic inflammatory disease or a variety of sexually transmitted diseases for which there are no mortality figures, the report said. The report also did not estimate the number of maternal deaths from abortions.

About 75 percent of maternal deaths can be attributed to five causes, the report said: hemorrhage, infection, toxemia, obstructed labor and complications of unsafe abortion.

Many maternal deaths could be prevented by reorienting programs to focus on women's health and family planning, the report said.

Worldwatch Institute is a private research group that studies a number of issues, including environmental concerns, natural resources and human needs.