Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010 – WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank estimates

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One of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that has made some progress, albeit slow, is MDG 5: Improve maternal health. The two targets for assessing MDG 5 are reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three quarters between 1990 and 2015, and achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015. The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has launched the Global strategy for women’s and children’s health, to mobilize commitments by governments, civil society organizations and development partners to accelerate progress towards MDGs 4 and 5 (1). Subsequently, the high-level Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health was established to “determine the most effective international institutional arrangements for global reporting, oversight and accountability on women’s and children’s health” (2). Additional political support for reducing maternal mortality, especially in countries with significant HIV epidemics, has come in the form of the Global plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive, which aims to reduce by half maternal deaths among HIV positive women (3).

An important challenge is that a majority of countries still lack a complete civil registration system with good attribution of cause of death, making it challenging to assess accurately the extent of progress towards MDG 5. Accordingly, the Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG), comprising the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Population Division (UNPD) and The World Bank, together with a team at the University of California at Berkeley, United States of America, have been working together to generate internationally comparable MMR estimates. A technical advisory group (TAG) provides independent technical advice. The estimates for 2010 presented in this report are the sixth in a series of exercises by the MMEIG to examine the likely global health implications of maternal mortality (4–8). The methods, as well as the data sources for the estimation of MMR, have improved over time.

Consultations with countries were carried out following the development of the MMR estimates. The purposes of the consultations were primarily: to give countries the
opportunity to review the country estimates, data sources and methods; to obtain additional primary data sources that may not have been previously reported or used; and to build mutual understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of available data and ensure broad ownership of the results. Appendix 17 presents a summary of the 2012 country consultations.

This report presents the global, regional and country estimates of maternal mortality in 2010, as well as trends from 1990 to 2010.

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