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Goal 5: Caring for Mothers

Caring for Mothers

SpacerDeath in childbirth is a rare event in rich countries, where there are typically fewer than 10 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births.

But in the poorest countries of Africa and Asia the ratio may be 100 times higher. Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries—around 500,000 annually.

The MDG target—to reduce by 75 percent the maternal mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015—remains difficult to measure for almost all developing countries.

No current direct estimates of the maternal mortality ratio or trends exist.

Because few countries are able to measure maternal mortality over time, other indicators are often used instead, such as the skilled health personnel who are needed to deal with the complications of childbirth that can claim mothers’ lives.

Survey evidence shows progress in 27 of 32 countries, but also suggests that this is highly concentrated among richer households.

While survey data also show progress in coverage for the poorest quintiles in many countries, differences in access to skilled delivery care between the poorest and richest quintiles in most countries represent larger equity gaps than for any other health service.

 Health figure 1
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Maternal deaths are still unacceptably high in many developing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as a result of high fertility rates and a high risk of
dying each time a woman becomes pregnant.

Some developing countries in East Asia and Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean have substantially improved maternal health through better health services, including increased numbers of trained birth attendants and midwives.

Still others, in Europe and Central Asia and Middle East and North Africa, have improved maternal health and significantly lowered fertility rates through the use of contraceptives and increased female education.

TARGET 6: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.
Health Figure 2
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Health Figure 3
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This figure shows the proportion of countries in each region that provide skilled health personnel for 90 percent of births or could do so by 2015 based on current trends.

Countries that are off track may be able to achieve 75 percent coverage by 2015, while seriously off-track countries will not reach even that level unless they make rapid progress in the next decade.

More fragile states are seriously off track compared to other developing countries.


In countries with the lowest access to a medically trained personnel for delivery, women in the richest quintile are six times more likely to have access than women in the poorest quintile.

In most developing countries, the greater the access, the lower the inequality; however,
inequality is still high in Bolivia, Cameroon, and Morocco.

Health figure 4
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Pregnancy at a young age puts the mother and child at higher risk of serious health consequences. In developing countries, maternal mortality in girls under 18 years of age is estimated to be two to five times higher than in women between 18 and 25.

Adolescent fertility rates are higher among poorer people, often substantially so. Poor young women typically have less access to reproductive health services, but the choice to have children very early also reflects low-income girls’ lack of access to schooling and limited economic prospects.




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