Trends in Maternal Mortality, 1990 to 2008, just released by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNFPA, and The World Bank, reports that the number of women dying globally due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34%, from 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008. This is one more piece of evidence that investments to improve maternal health are indeed paying off. It also corroborates research published in Lancet earlier this year that showed a similar, modest decline in the number of women dying from pregnancy complications.
While we know that fewer women are dying, there is clearly much more work to be done. In this latest United Nations report, only 10 out of 87 countries with maternal mortality ratios equal to or over 100 in 1990 are on track to achieving Millennium Development Goal No. 5 (MDG 5) by 2015. Also, 30 countries made insufficient or no progress since 1990. (See the full report and press release for more information.)
Furthermore, for every life lost due to pregnancy or childbirth complications, about 20 women suffer from maternal morbidity, including obstetric fistula. And if we are going to continue this positive downward trend, we must improve the health of mothers in places with high levels of HIV, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, and refocus attention to address women’s holistic needs, providing high-quality family planning, obstetric, and HIV services under one roof.
As we were reminded at the recent Global Maternal Health Conference 2010, which brought together nearly 700 maternal health experts, solutions exist, and we know what they are. To reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, women must have better access to:
- Family planning, with other related sexual and reproductive health services
- Skilled care during pregnancy
- Emergency obstetric care
- Immediate postpartum care
Next week, the world’s leaders will descend on New York City for high-level events, including the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. The good news is momentum behind MDG 5 has never been higher. This is welcome news for all of us who care deeply about improving sexual and reproductive health in the world’s poorest communities. The key now is to harness this energy to ensure that our governments deliver on their commitments to ensure universal access to reproductive health and to reduce maternal mortality by 75%.
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