The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in a report yesterday that although maternal mortality rates have decreased by 34 percent since 1990, the decline in the rate of pregnancy-related deaths is not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal target for 2015. The report, which was published in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank, stated a need for greater investment in health systems and care quality. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 maternal deaths per day caused by easily preventable conditions that include severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortion. According to Reuters, the 34 percent decline since 1990 is a result of improved midwife training, family planning services, and increased access in some locales to hospital and clinical care for pregnant women.
The UN Millennium Development Goal target aims to reduce the number of maternal deaths by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015. However, the current rate of decline for the maternal mortality ratio is only 2.3 percent annually, according to a WHO press release. In order to meet the 2015 goal, the annual rate of decline must be increased to 5.5 percent. UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said, “The lack of maternal health care violates women’s rights to life, health, equality, and non-discrimination,” according to the press release. “We urgently need to address the shortage of health workers and step up funding for reproductive health services.”
The WHO report indicates that 99 percent of the 358,000 maternal deaths in 2008 took place in developing areas, where women are 36 times more likely to die from childbirth or related complications than women in developed countries. The Sub-Saharan Africa region alone accounted for 57 percent of these deaths, despite a 26 percent reduction in its maternal mortality rate since 1990. Only five percent of the deaths occurred in developed countries.