Between 1990 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) decreased by 44%, from 385 to 216 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Despite this progress, the world still fell far short of the Millennium Development Goals target of a 75% reduction in the global MMR by 2015. Moreover, large geographic inequalities persist. For example, regionally, sub-Saharan Africa has by far the highest MMR at 546 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births while the average MMR in developed regions is just 12 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Maternal mortality reduction remains a priority under “Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda through 2030. In February 2015, the World Health Organization published “Strategies toward ending preventable maternal mortality (EPMM)” (EPMM Strategies), a direction-setting report outlining global targets and strategies for reducing maternal mortality under the SDGs. The result of extensive consultations with stakeholders around the globe, the targets and strategies in the EPMM Strategies report are grounded in a human rights approach to maternal and newborn health and focus on eliminating the inequities that lead to disparities in access, quality and outcomes of health care within and among countries.

EPMM Targets

Global Target:

By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

National Targets:

By 2030, countries should reduce their MMRs by at least two-thirds from their 2010 baseline; countries with the highest maternal mortality burdens will need to achieve even greater reduction.


By 2030, no country should have an MMR greater than 140 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, a number twice the global target.

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The majority of maternal deaths are preventable: About three quarters of all maternal deaths are caused by postpartum hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders such as pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, infections, unsafe abortion and other delivery-related complications. In theory, all of the major causes of maternal death can be treated with effective and timely clinical interventions. In practice, however, even if a woman manages to access prenatal care and deliver in a health facility with a skilled birth attendant, poor quality of care can be life-threatening. Non-communicable diseases also play an important and growing role, contributing underlying causes to deaths that occur during pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum period.

While they represent a challenge yet to be adequately addressed, the immediate causes of maternal death only paint part of the picture; many risk factors for maternal death begin long before delivery. Social determinants such as place of residence, socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity as well as institutional factors such as national resource allocation, health system infrastructure and political accountability for evidence-based programming influence a woman’s likelihood of dying from childbirth-related complications. Particular attention to family planning is warranted given that approximately 29% of maternal deaths could be averted through met need for contraceptives and another 13% through access to safe abortion.

Achieving the SDG target of a global MMR of fewer than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2030 will require continued investment in maternal health research, programs and policy at the global level and very focused action in countries.


Key Papers

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The Role of the MHTF

The Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) plays an integral role in advancing the global goals and strategies for Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality (EPMM) by driving the efforts of the EPMM Working Group and leading the technical work to develop a comprehensive monitoring framework for EPMM. In collaboration with the World Health Organization and partner organizations including the United States Agency for International Development, United Nations Population Fund, White Ribbon Alliance, UNICEF and the FCI program of Management Sciences for Health, the EPMM Working Group seeks to promote and track progress on addressing strategic priorities for maternal health and survival and to build the necessary momentum to end preventable maternal deaths within a generation.

Read the Strategies toward ending preventable maternal mortality (EPMM) report>>

On 20 September 2017, the EPMM Working Group convened a Twitter chat on ending preventable maternal mortality under the SDGs.

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Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality


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