One in seven pregnant women in Ebola-hit West African countries could die in childbirth because hospitals are overwhelmed and unable to treat them, leading aid charities warned this morning. According to the report, rate of women dying while giving birth in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is soaring due to inadequate medical facilities and a fear of contact with bodily fluids preventing people helping them.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 800,000 women in those three countries alone over the coming 12 months – with aid charities warning that some 120,000 of them could face life-threatening complications if there are not dramatic improvements in emergency care.

Tens of thousands of women could die in childbirth in West Africa over the coming year due to medical facilities being overwhelmed by the Ebola crisis, according to the DEC group of 13 leading UK charities, including Save The Children and ActionAid.

Korto Williams, head of ActionAid in Liberia, said many women were being left to give birth alone because stigma and a lack of information meant midwives feared catching Ebola and stayed away. Too many women have died because of lack of care, she said, adding video clips on the internet show women giving birth in the streets of Monrovia with no one helping.

She said the ‘horrendous prediction’ of one in seven women dying in childbirth was a “worst case scenario” but added: “We have to do more to … stop this coming true.” “We have to ensure that pregnant women get the care they urgently need or we will see the rate of maternal deaths skyrocket,” Ms Williams added.

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