Fewer mothers are now dying in childbirth and other delivery related procedures as compared to 25 years ago, a new global report has revealed. And this is as a result of the robust implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had the reduction of maternal mortality ratio by at least 75 percent between 2000 and 2015 as one of its prime objectives.
Maternal mortality has fallen by 44 percent since 1990, United Nations agencies and the World Bank Group reported last week.
The new report indicates that maternal deaths around the world have dropped from about 532,000 in 1990 to an estimated 303,000 this year.
This latest report is the last in a series that has looked at progress under the MDGs. This 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 defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth or within 6 weeks after birth.
“Ensuring access to high quality health services during pregnancy and child birth,” the report said, “is helping to save lives by administering essential health interventions such as practising good hygiene to reduce the risk of infection; giving injections that will stop severe bleeding immediately after childbirth; identifying and addressing potentially fatal conditions like pregnancy-induced hypertension; and ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health services and family planning for women.”
The report, compiled by WHO, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division, was published last week in the medical journal The Lancet.
“The MDGs triggered unprecedented efforts to reduce maternal mortality,” the report quotes WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health, Dr Flavia Bustreo, as saying.
“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.”
Another high profile UN official, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, who heads UNFPA, said achieving that goal will 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. 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.”
In spite of this progress, the world still has more to do if they want to see more women come through safe deliveries. Despite global improvements, the report says, only nine countries achieved the MDG five target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by at least 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.
Those countries are Bhutan, Cape Verde, Cambodia, Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Mongolia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste. Despite this important progress, the MMR in some of these countries remains higher than the global average.
“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 maternal deaths,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Geeta Rao Gupta. “The education of women and girls, in particular the most marginalized, is important 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 two in three (66 percent) deaths, report said.
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, a reduction of 72 percent.
In developed regions, maternal mortality fell 48 percent between 1990 and 2015, from 23 to 12 per 100,000 live births.
Meanwhile, the 2015 maternal mortality estimates present the tremendous progress achieved towards the Millennium Development Goal Five on maternal mortality reduction. They show a strong trend of reduction over the years. At the same time, we have seen more and better data coming from various countries, enhancing the accuracy of the absolute numbers reported.