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HOME: POPULATION ISSUES: Safe Motherhood: Maternal Mortality Statistics
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Reproductive Health Indicators
Maternal Mortality in 2005

Maternal Mortality Figures Show Limited Progress in Making Motherhood Safer

Figures released in October 2007 jointly by UNFPA, WHO, UNICEF and The World Bank reveal that women continue to die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate of about one a minute. These figures, the first new international estimates in five years, show only limited progress in making motherhood safer, especially in the poorest countries.

The maternal mortality ratio (number of deaths per 100,000 lives births) has been declining globally at a rate of less than 1 per cent. The total number of women dying in pregnancy or childbirth has also shown a modest decrease between 1990 and 2005. In 2005, 536,000 women died of maternal causes, compared to 576,000 in 1990.

However, maternal mortality is difficult to measure accurately, especially in the poorest countries, which tend to have the highest maternal deaths, and the estimates are bounded by wide measures of uncertainty.

Wide disparities by region and wealth

Maternal mortality ratios show the greatest gap between rich and poor countries of all health indicators. Ninety-nine per cent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, primarily in Africa and South Asia. The probability that a 15-year-old female will die from a complication related to pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime is highest in Niger (1 in 7), in stark contrast to Ireland, which had the lowest lifetime risk of 1 in 48,000.

The small global decline in maternal mortality ratio reflects mainly the declines that have taken place in countries with relatively low levels of maternal mortality to start with. While maternal mortality is declining in middle income countries, countries with the highest initial levels of such deaths have made virtually no progress in reducing maternal deaths over the past 15 years.

Estimates of MMR, number of maternal deaths, lifetime risk, and range of uncertainty by United Nations MDG regions, 2005

For technical notes, see Maternal Mortality in 2005 (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank)

Maternal Deaths Declining Too Slowly to Meet MDG Target

Although maternal mortality ratios (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) are declining globally, and in all regions, the decline is too slow to meet the target of Millennium Development Goal 5, which calls for a 75 per cent reduction from 1990 to 2015. Meeting that goal would have required an annual drop of 5.5 per cent, whereas the recorded declines have been less than 1 per cent.

Table 3: Comparison of 1990 and 2005 maternal mortality by United Nations MDGregions

For technical notes, see Maternal Mortality in 2005 (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank)

 


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