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Over 99 percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries

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Every day, 800 women die from pregnancy-related causes during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Over 99% of these 287,000 annual deaths occur in developing countries, and most are avoidable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. About 56% of the deaths occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa with another 29% in South Asia – these two regions together account for  85% of maternal mortality in the world.


What proportion mothers die? Understanding the MMR

The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is defined as the number of maternal deaths during a given time period per 100,000 live births during the same time-period. It indicates the quality of the healthcare system.

As you can see in the chart below, sub-Saharan Africa had the highest MMR at 500 per 100,000 births in 2010, followed by South Asia – 220 per 100,000. Other regions had significantly lower MMR.

Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births) by region (2010)

The probability of dying from maternal causes.

The adult lifetime risk of maternal deaths (the probability that a 15-year-old female will eventually die due to a maternal cause) shows extreme contrast across countries due to high risk per birth and high fertility in developing countries.

In Chad, 1 in 15 women will die of maternal causes, in Somalia it’s 1 in 16, in Niger and Sierra Leone it’s 1 in 23, and in Liberia it’s 1 in 24. In contrast, only 1 in 25,500 women will die of maternal causes in Greece.

Adult lifetime risk of maternal death (1 in) for selected countries, 2010

Adult lifetime risk of maternal death 1 in:
Sierra Leone

Making progress in reducing maternal mortality

Many developing countries are making encouraging progress towards reducing MMR. But for most, however, progress is not fast enough to achieve the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5) of reducing by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio. Achieving this target would require a 5.5% annual decline in MMR between 1990 and 2015.

The annual rate of decline by region ranges from 2.6% to 5.0 % between 1990 and 2010.

Trends in maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 births) by region, 1990-2010

Effort needs to be expanded and intensified in developing and implementing policies and strategies for effective maternal and reproductive health care.

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