Maternal mortality in Ethiopia: can a rights-based approach cure?

  • Solomon Tekle Abegaz (University of Gondar)


Preventable maternal death as a human rights concern is gaining greater momentum. This article examines the normative framework applying to maternal mortality, and highlights the important link that exists between women’s right to health and several other rights. It then discusses the differing, yet complementary, aspects of the nature of women’s right to health as a right relevant to shaping a human rights approach to maternal mortality, namely: achieving health-care services that are available, accessible, acceptable, and of high quality; engagement of civil society organisations in the promotion and protection of women’s health rights; and ensuring functioning accountability mechanisms. Even though the country recognises the right to health and other complementary rights in its current constitution, and also subscribes to numerous human rights instruments that incorporate the right to health, which equally apply to women, the article finds that there is a selective approach to women’s access to health goods and services; the room for mobilising civil society is restrictive; and an inefficient accountability system exits. Relying on the requirements of human rights norms and standards, the article argues for the potential role of operationalisation of the rights-based model to further reducing or eliminating maternal mortality in the Sustainable Development Goals period.

Key words: human rights, maternal health, maternal mortality, rights-based approach to health 

How to Cite:

Abegaz, S., (2018) “Maternal mortality in Ethiopia: can a rights-based approach cure?”, Afrika Focus 30(2). doi:

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Published on
01 Feb 2018
Peer Reviewed