In 2000 the United Nations agreed on eight goals, collectively called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, improve health and education, empower women, and create environmental sustainability by 2015. Now ten years later and with less than five years to go, how close are we to achieving those goals? The United Nations recently released The Millennium Development Goals Report: 2010, which looks at the gains that have been made and the areas that still need progress. The report points out some successes in getting children into schools, eliminating poverty, and preventing malaria and AIDS, but progress in reducing maternal mortality is still lagging.
According to the report:
New estimates of maternal mortality are currently being finalized by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank. Preliminary data shows signs of progress, with some countries achieving significant declines in maternal mortality ratios. However, the rate of reduction is still well short of the 5.5 percent annual decline needed to meet the MDG target.
This preliminary evidence is supported by a study from the Lancet released this spring showing that the number of women dying from maternal mortality related causes is declining. Even with this decrease there is a lot of work that needs to be done and the stakes are high. For every woman who dies from a pregnancy-related cause, 20 more suffer from lifelong injury. The decline in maternal mortality numbers show that we know what interventions work, but money and political will is needed to meet the target of reducing the maternal mortality rate in developing countries by three quarters between 1990 and 2015.
Meeting a woman’s unmet need for family planning is critical to achieving that target. According to the report:
Satisfying women’s unmet need for family planning…could improve maternal health and reduce the number of maternal deaths. Recent estimates indicate that meeting that need could result in a 27 percent drop in maternal deaths each year by reducing the annual number of unintended pregnancies from 75 million to 22 million.
Unfortunately, funding for family planning has declined in real dollars since 1995, while the number of women who have an unmet need has increased. The good news is that the United States has ramped up its funding over the past two years, but the aid level still falls short of the actual need. There is still time to achieve the MDG 5 goals of reducing maternal mortality and providing universal access to reproductive health services. The recent commitments made at the G8 summit will help, but time is starting to run out.
Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager