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Maternal deaths fall by 44% in 25 years – UN

By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

A new United Nations agencies and the World Bank Group report has  revealed that maternal deaths  dropped by 44 percent in 25 years globally.  The report showed that the deaths dropped from about 532 000 in 1990 to an estimated 303 000 this year.

The new report carried out by four UN agencies including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group noted that the drop noticed under the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs equates to an estimated global maternal mortality ratio, MMR, of 216 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, down from 385 in 1990. Maternal mortality is the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth or within six weeks after birth.

Reacting to the report, WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, Dr Flavia Bustreo stated that the MDGs triggered unprecedented efforts to reduce maternal mortality. According to Bustreo, over the past 25 years, a woman’s risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes has nearly halved.  “That’s real progress, although it is not enough. We know that we can virtually end these deaths by 2030 and this is what we are committing to work towards.”

On his own part, Executive Director of the United Nations’ Population Fund, UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said achieving that goal would require much more effort. “Many countries with high maternal death rates will make little progress, or will even fall behind, over the next 15 years if we don’t improve the current number of available midwives and other health workers with midwifery skills.”

He stressed that,“if we don’t make a big push now, in 2030 we’ll be faced, once again, with a missed target for reducing maternal deaths.” The new report contained in the Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 is being published simultaneously in the medical journal The Lancet.

The report also noted the need for countries to ensure access to high-quality health services during pregnancy and child birth to help save more lives.

It showed that despite global improvements, only nine countries achieved the MDG 5 target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by at least 75 percent between 1990 and 2015. Those countries are Bhutan, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Mongolia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Geeta Rao Gupta said as we have seen with all of the health-related MDGs, health system strengthening needs to be supplemented with attention to other issues to reduce the deaths.   “The education of women and girls, in particular the most marginalised, is key to their survival and that of their children. Education provides them with the knowledge to challenge traditional practices that endanger them and their children.”

By the end of this year, about 99 percent of the world’s maternal deaths will have occurred in developing regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for 2 in 3 (66 percent) deaths. But that represents a major improvement: Sub-Saharan Africa saw nearly 45 (percent decrease in MMR, from 987 to 546 per 100 000 live births between 1990 and 2015.

The greatest improvement of any region was recorded in Eastern Asia, where the maternal mortality ratio fell from approximately 95 to 27 per 100 000 live births. In developed regions, maternal mortality fell 48 percent between 1990 and 2015, from 23 to 12 per 100 000 live births.



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