Background: The fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG5) aims at improving maternal health. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined from 400 to 260 per 100000 live births between 1990 and 2008. During the same period, MMR in sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 870 to 640. The decreased in MMR has been attributed to increase in the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel. Global improvements maternal health and health service provision indicators mask inequalities both between and within countries. In Namibia, there are significant inequities in births attended by skilled providers that favour those that are economically better off. The objective of this study was to identify the drivers of wealth-related inequalities in child delivery by skilled health providers.
Methods: Namibia Demographic and Health Survey data of 2006-07 are analysed for the causes of inequities in skilled birth attendance using a decomposable health concentration index and the framework of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
Results: About 80.3% of the deliveries were attended by skilled health providers. Skilled birth attendance in the richest quintile is about 70% more than that of the poorest quintile. The rate of skilled attendance among educated women is almost twice that of women with no education. Furthermore, women in urban areas access the services of trained birth attendant 30% more than those in rural areas. Use of skilled birth attendants is over 90% in Erongo, Hardap, Karas and Khomas Regions, while the lowest (about 60-70%) is seen in Kavango, Kunene and Ohangwena. The concentration curve and concentration index show statistically significant wealth-related inequalities in delivery by skilled providers that are to the advantage of women from economically better off households (C = 0.0979; P < 0.001).Delivery by skilled health provider by various maternal and household characteristics was 21 percentage points higher in urban than rural areas; 39 percentage points higher among those in richest wealth quintile than the poorest; 47 percentage points higher among mothers with higher level of education than those with no education; 5 percentage points higher among female headed households than those headed by men; 20 percentage points higher among people with health insurance cover than those without; and 31 percentage points higher in Karas region than Kavango region.
Conclusion: Inequalities in wealth and education of the mother are seen to be the main drivers of inequities in the percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel. This clearly implies that addressing inequalities in access to child delivery services should not be confined to the health system and that a concerted multi-sectoral action is needed in line with the principles of the Primary health Care.