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Maternal Mortality Worldwide Declines By Over One-Third Since 1990, U.N. Report Says

Maternal mortality has declined by more than one-third since 1990, according to a report (.pdf) from U.N. agencies released on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reports. But the agencies warned that the rate of progress was too slow and that the decline still misses the maternal mortality Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of a three-quarters cut (9/15).

The report – released by the WHO, UNICEF, the U.N. Population Fund and the World Bank – says the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has gone down from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008, according to a WHO press release. “The progress is notable, but the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the [MDG] target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75% between 1990 and 2015,” the release said. (9/15).

“Some 99 percent of the 358,000 maternal deaths reported in 2008 were in developing countries, and more than half were in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report,” Reuters writes. It also found that women in developing countries are 36 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than women in wealthy nations (MacInnis, 9/15).

The report listed the four major causes of maternal death as: “severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortion,” the press release notes. “Every day, about 1,000 women died due to these complications in 2008. Out of the 1,000, 570 lived in sub-Saharan Africa, 300 in South Asia and five in high-income countries.” Maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa decreased by 26 percent between 1990 and 2008, according to the findings. The decrease in Asia over the same period was 52 percent.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the reduction in maternal deaths is “encouraging news,” adding, “No woman should die due to inadequate access to family planning and to pregnancy and delivery care.”

“To achieve our global goal of improving maternal health and to save women’s lives we need to do more to reach those who are most at risk,” Executive Director of UNICEF Anthony Lake said.  “That means reaching women in rural areas and poorer households, women from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups, and women living with HIV and in conflict zones” (9/15).