There’s no doubt that this is excellent news. The new UN maternal mortality figures further confirm the trend that the IHME data suggested earlier this year: there is a global downward trend in maternal mortality. Who could be disappointed with that? Our hard work over the past decades is paying off.
But great news doesn’t detract from the persistent need for good, accurate, and real-time data in the maternal health field. Figures we have are estimates based, for many countries, on low-quality and incomplete data, or they are numbers derived from data models.
The estimates provide us with an important but sketchy picture of maternal mortality worldwide, because it is so often difficult to obtain accurate, comprehensive data on this issue. Many deaths aren’t counted because they occur in places where there is no system to track them — poor and rural villages or ill-equipped clinics — or because the women dying are those most marginalized and neglected by their communities. Too often, they simply do not count.
While every bit of new data helps us understand this epidemic we have been fighting, we need to continue demanding excellence of ourselves and others in delivering good, solid data. We need more rigorous systems of monitoring and evaluation at the local, national, and regional levels, and to better emphasize the importance of data — what accurate and timely figures enable us to know, do, and solve.
To those of us in the field, it couldn’t be any clearer that women are the cornerstone of their families, communities, and economies. They drive economic development and they nurture our future generation. While we continue to push for implementing proven solutions —like universal access to family planning, safe abortion services, and skilled care before, during, and after childbirth — our message should be clear: every woman counts, and therefore should be counted.
Visit www.womendeliver.orgto learn more!