Progress is possible
25 SEPTEMBER 2010 | GENEVA - The United Nations’ health agencies* have just released a new report - "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008" – which shows that global efforts to reduce maternal mortality are beginning to pay off. The data in this new Report shows significant progress in the reduction of the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, with a decrease of 34% from some 550 000 estimated deaths in 1990 to around 350 000 in 2008. And this new hopeful report strengthens our resolve to improve women's health and make their health a priority in the world.
Many countries have been able to reduce the number of women dying in childbirth. The report attributes some of these successes to many factors, including increased female education, improved health systems, a rise in the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel and an increase in the number of women using contraception.
The “Global Strategy for Women's and Children Health”, which will be unveiled by the United Nations Secretary-General on 22 September in New York, will be the catalyst for many new commitments -- financial, policy and service delivery commitments which will support efforts in countries to reduce maternal deaths and increase the rate of progress. The Partnership has served as the platform for the development of such strategy, and all our partners will continue to work for these improvements to reach more women and children.
This new UN report on maternal mortality confirms analyses from earlier this year by researchers working at the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation. However, the report shows that much more work needs to be done to achieve the MDG 5 target of reducing maternal mortality ratios around the world by 75% by 2015. In fact, the rate of progress needs at least to double in order to achieve the MDG target — from the present annual percentage decline in maternal mortality of 2.3 % to at least 5.5%.
While all the data on maternal and child mortality produced this year by the UN and other academic partners confirm a welcome downward trend in maternal and child mortality, we still have to rely on methods of modelling and estimation around which there is much debate. These debates are necessary because there is a lack of quality, real-time health information and vital registration systems of births and deaths in many countries.
It is a basic, fundamental human right of people to count as citizens of the world, recognising when they are born and when they die.
And until we really know how many women and children die every year from preventable causes, countries’ efforts to plan and invest in maternal, newborn and child health will be held back. To make every mother and child count, we need to count every mother and child.