Population Matters

Hope for Maternal Health

September 17th, 2010

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank released their new maternal mortality numbers in the report “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008”. The number of women who are dying from childbirth and pregnancy related causes has fallen 34% from 546,000 women per year in 1990 to 358,000 per year in 2008. This is great news, but with 1,000 women dying every day there is still a lot of work to be done.

If the world is going to meet Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG5) of reducing the maternal mortality ratio 75% between 1990 and 2015, the world will need to make MDG5 a higher priority. The 34% decline in maternal mortality equates to an average annual decline of 2.3%. In order to meet MDG5 that rate of annual decline will have to be increased to 5.5%, more than double the current rate.

According to Margaret Chan the Director-General of the WHO:

“The global reduction in maternal death rates is encouraging news. Countries where women are facing a high risk of death during pregnancy or childbirth are taking measures that are proving effective; they are training more midwives, and strengthening hospitals and health centers to assist pregnant women. No woman should die due to inadequate access to family planning and to pregnancy and delivery care.”

An important but easy step in meeting MDG5 is ensuring that we meet MDG5b, which calls for universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.   Family planning, in particular, will help to lower the maternal mortality rate by reducing pregnancy-related deaths.  The need is evident. According to UNFPA, there are 215 million women who want to avoid a pregnancy, but who are not using a modern method of contraception.

By investing in family planning internationally, we can prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions, and save the lives of mothers and their children. For every $100 million invested in family planning 2.1 million unintended pregnancies are prevented, 825,000 abortions are prevented, 70,000 infant deaths are prevented, and 4,000 mother lives are saved.

Next week the United Nations General Assembly will focus on the Millennium Development Goals, including MDG5.  Donor nations need to come together and make a strong statement saying we will not accept 1,000 women dying every day in childbirth or from pregnancy-related causes. No woman should die giving birth.

Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager

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