, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 15 – A new report by international health bodies on Wednesday indicated that maternal deaths have dropped by a third globally.
According to UNICEF, World Bank, World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “The number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 percent.”
The report showed that there were 358,000 maternal deaths in 2008 compared to the 546,000 deaths in 1990.
Despite the reduction in mortality rates, WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan said it still fell way too far from achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality ratio by 75 percent by 2015, “The progress is notable, but the annual rate of decline is less than half of reducing the mortality ratio by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015.”
Though she appreciated the decline, she said it will require an annual decline of 5.5 percent instead of the 2.3 decline since 1990 to 2008. She said the decline indicates that it is possible to prevent more women from dying if countries invest in their health systems and the quality of care
“Countries where women are facing a high risk of death during pregnancy or childbirth are taking measures that proving effective, no woman should die due to inadequate access to family planning and to pregnancy and delivery care,” she stressed.
Dr Chan expressed concerns that women were dying from preventable causes such as severe bleeding after birth, infections, hypertensive disorders and unsafe abortion.
The report further indicated that 1,000 women died in 2008 due to birth and pregnancy complications and out of the total number, only five came from developed countries while the rest of the deaths were in developing countries.
“99 percent of all maternal deaths in 2008 occurred in developing regions, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia accounting for 57 percent and 30 percent of all deaths respectively,” the report indicated.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said it was important for governments to improve maternal health and target women most at risk, “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 zone.”
World Bank Human Development Vice President Tamar Manuelyan said it was crucial for UN agencies, donors and other partners to coordinate their assistance to strengthen health systems to increase accessibility to reproductive health services and care for pregnant women during pregnancy and birth.
Among the key interventions to reduce the mortality rates, Dr Chan said it was fundamental for countries to strengthen national data collection systems.
“It is vital to support the development of complete and accurate civil registration systems that include births, deaths and causes of death. Every maternal death needs to be counted,” he said.