September 16, 2010

Maternal Deaths Down By One-third: UN Report

Maternal mortality fell more than 33 percent in nearly two decades, according to a report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The vast majority of these deaths occurred in developing nations within Africa and South Asia, the health agencies reported Wednesday.

Despite the improvement, the rate of progress fell well short of targets set under the 2015 U.N. Millennium initiative of a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality.

Maternal deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth fell by more than one-third, from about 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008, according to the report, entitled "Trends in Maternal Mortality".

"The global reduction in maternal death rates is encouraging news," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who attributed the progress on an increase in the number of trained midwives and better healthcare for pregnant women.

"No woman should die due to inadequate access to family planning and to pregnancy and delivery care," she said.

Ninety-nine percent of these deaths occurred in developing nations, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia accounting for 87 percent of global maternal mortality, the report found.

Asia saw the fastest progress, with the number of maternal deaths reduced by more than half, from 315,000 to 139,000 between 1990 and 2008.

"Maternal deaths are both caused by poverty and are a cause of it," the AFP news agency quoted Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, vice president for human development at the World Bank, as saying

Additional progress would depend upon the ability to reach deeper into rural and poorer areas, the agencies said.

The full report can be viewed at http://www.docstoc.com/docs/54699899/Trends-in-Maternal-Mortality-1990-to-2008.