Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2008

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Millennium development goal (MDG) 5 Target 5A calls for the reduction of maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. It has been a challenge to assess the extent of progress due to the lack of reliable and accurate maternal mortality data – particularly in developing-country settings where maternal mortality is high. As part on going efforts, the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank revised and improved earlier methods to estimate maternal mortality in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2008; and developed methodology to present trends in maternal mortality from 1990 to 2008 at country, regional, and global levels.

This report highlights the following.

  •  Ten out of 87 countries with maternal mortality ratios over 100 in 1990, are on track with an annual decline of 5.5% between 1990 and 2008. At the other extreme, 30 made insufficient or no progress since 1990.
  •  The study shows progress in sub-Saharan Africa where maternal mortality decreased by 26%.
  •  In Asia, the number of maternal deaths is estimated to have dropped from 315 000 to 139 000 between 1990 and 2008, a 52% decrease.
  •  99% of all maternal deaths in 2008 occurred in developing regions, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia accounting for 57% and 30% of all deaths respectively.

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