A new report launched today by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank found that maternal deaths have fallen by nearly 50 percent over the past two decades, demonstrating that global investments in maternal and reproductive health programs are having a measurable impact around the world.
According to the report, the number of maternal deaths around the world has dropped from 543,000 in 1990 to 287,000 in 2010 – a 47% decline. Additionally, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, or number of women dying for every 100,000 live births) declined from 400 in 1990 to 210 in 2010. This new data comes at a critical time, with just three years remaining before the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 5 aims to reduce maternal deaths by 75 percent globally.
“The figures released today are very promising and are a tribute to the hard work of so many dedicated individuals and organizations around the world. But with 800 women still dying during pregnancy and childbirth every day – and countless more being injured– there’s still much more work to be done,” said Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “The good news is that we know what works, and we know the cost of inaction. What we need now – and more urgently than ever – are even stronger political and financial commitments to save and improve the lives of girls, women, and newborns.”
The report examined 180 countries from 1990 through 2010 and assessed progress toward curbing maternal mortality and achieving MDG 5. During this time, 100 countries have achieved a more than 40% decrease in maternal deaths. However, sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia continue to have the highest burden of maternal deaths, with 85% of all deaths occurring in these regions. A woman’s lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 39 in sub-Saharan Africa and 1 in 160 in Southern Asia, compared to a 1 in 3,800 risk in developed countries. The two highest-burden countries in these regions – India and Nigeria – together account for more than one-third of maternal deaths globally. Thirty-six of the 40 highest-burden countries are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report found that 10 countries have already reached the MDG 5 target, including Belarus, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Maldives, Nepal, Romania and Viet Nam. Other countries, including South Africa, Kenya and Guatemala, have made little or no progress. Notably, the MMR in several high-income countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Switzerland, has actually increased since 1990.
Increasing access to voluntary family planning services among the 215 million women who want, but do not have access to, modern contraceptives could help further reduce maternal mortality worldwide. East Asia, which has made the greatest progress in preventing maternal deaths, has a contraceptive prevalence rate of 84 percent. Conversely, sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest rate of maternal death, has a contraceptive prevalence rate of only 22 percent. It is estimated that meeting the global unmet need for family planning and maternal and newborn health services could reduce the number of maternal deaths by 70 percent.
In May 2013, Women Deliver’s 3rd global conference will bring 5,000 policymakers, researchers, advocates and youth to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to discuss the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain in global efforts to improve the health and well-being of girls and women. The landmark conference will aim to galvanize the political will and financial commitments needed to accelerate progress toward MDG 5 in the lead-up to 2015 and ensure that girls and women remain a priority in the post-MDG development agenda.
- For the full report, please visit: http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/mothers/MMEstimates2012