Careful Mortality Data Analysis Uncovers Epidemic of Femicide in Brazil
Mortality data from Brazil reveals shocking detail of a hidden epidemic of femicides and domestic violence in the country.

A “hidden epidemic” of femicides and domestic violence in Brazil has been unearthed by a careful examination of mortality data, a Vital Strategies webinar on women and health was told on Thursday.

Fatima Marinho, Principal Technical Advisor in Vital Strategies’ Brazil office, described the mortality findings as “shocking” – but added that they showed how important data collection and analysis was for women’s health.

“Every day, women have their deaths recorded as traffic injuries or heart attacks or suicides, when they are dying from causes related to violence,” revealed Marinho, adding that their data report has resulted in more attention being paid to autopsies and more rigorous collection of  data to identify deaths rooted in violence.

Brazilian women exposed to violence, according to Marinho, have an estimated mortality risk that is nearly eight times higher than that of the general population. An estimated 400 deaths per week is a direct and indirect consequence of exposure to violence.

Most shockingly, Marinho said the data showed that pregnant women living in abusive relationships were at a higher risk of femicide after giving birth.

“We realize that women who are victims of violence are coming to health services, searching for care, safety and healing, but they are not being listening too,” said Marinho.

“When we constructed the journey of those women’s health service, we saw that we are missing so many opportunities to address violence. They are hospitalized for injury or even during pregnancy during routine care or suicide attempts…”

Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, a health advocate and Special Envoy for Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) at Vital Strategies, described the COVID-19 pandemic as a “disaster” for women that has reversed progress made with regards to women’s health.

“If we are thinking to build back better post-corona without gender perspective at the core of every single policy, we will simply fail,” said Princess Dina.

Princess Dina Mired of Jordan

She applauded the women leadership of New Zealand, Singapore and Germany during the pandemic , saying their responses were based on science and empathy. 

“They have established a new brand of leadership.There is no negotiation on that, we’ve seen it, we’ve heard it and we’ve seen the results,” she said.

Advancing Women’s Health Using Data

Christina Chang, Vital Strategies deputy CEO, said the organisation is collaborating with ministers of health and local partners to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality resulting from unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

The initiative is run in Bangladesh, Rwanda and Uganda – countries that have high mortality rates due to unsafe abortions and unintended pregnancies. 

Chang said all three countries have identified gaps in the availability and use of timely data and are working to strengthen data collection analysis that will be used to improve policy advocacy, communications and program implementation.

“It’s really an experiment of using the tools… using data driven and evidence based interventions …to be able to increase access to safe abortion. And in the process, hoping to be able to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity,” said Chang.

In Bangladesh, for example, an increasing number of health complications are being recorded due to the informal use of medical menstrual regulation which involves treatment that is administered within 14 days of a missed menstrual period to ensure that a woman either is not pregnant or does not remain pregnant. 

In Rwanda, the stigma of abortion and limited quality of healthcare providers, is also a major health risk.

Chang however said too often women’s health is limited to reproductive health, but that the scope is broader and should include issues of non-communicable diseases “which are the greatest threat to women’s health and well-being”.

“We are actually much more than our uteruses right, we’re much more than that,” said Chang. 

“Heart disease, cancer and diabetes are responsible for two in every three deaths among women each year, and the factors that drive non communicable diseases are in the environments that we live in, the food we eat and the air.”

Citing air pollution as another women’s health issue, Chang said millions of households rely on traditional stoves and polluting fuels and that these smokes pose huge risks to women who are most often responsible for cooking and caring for their families.

“We need to address this leading cause of exposure for women and promote clean household energy, including access to cleaner fuels and better technologies for cooking.”

Other issues affecting women’s health that are not getting as much attention include forced marriages,  lack of education and women’s rights to child custody.

Image Credits: Pxfuel.

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