6 Improve maternal health

Where are we?

UN Mission in Cote D'Ivoire
Photo: Hien Macline/UN
  • Africa reduced its maternal mortality rate by 42 per cent during 1990–2010, but significant disparities remain on a case-by-case basis.

New maternal mortality estimates confirm that the number of women dying in pregnancy and child- birth is declining in Africa. Africa reduced its maternal mortality ratio from 745 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 429 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, a 42 per cent reduction. However, the mortality ratios and trends vary across the continent.

Since the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa was launched in 2009, 37 African countries have launched the initiative and more are preparing to do so. Africa-wide, the campaign has made tremendous progress, with several countries adopting national road maps and developing strategic health development plans.

Maternal mortality ratio, 1990, 2000 and 2010

Despite some progress, Africa still has the largest burden of maternal deaths in the world, with 56 per cent of the global burden of deaths in 2010. For example, Nigeria accounted for 14 per cent of global maternal deaths in 2010, despite its maternal mortality ratio falling 41 per cent over 1990–2010 (WHO et al., 2012).

UNDP's work in Africa

  • UNDP in Eritrea

    Reducing maternal death in Eritrea
    UNDP Eritrea

    In the market town of Senafe, in southern Eritrea, Fethawi Berhane has just undergone three days of painful labor and complications during childbirth that resulted inmore

Targets for MDG 5
  1. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
    • Most maternal deaths could be avoided
    • Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care
    • The rural-urban gap in skilled care during childbirth has narrowed
  2. Achieve universal access to reproductive health & inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health
    • More women are receiving antenatal care
    • Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking
    • Only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy
    • Progress has stalled in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, putting more young mothers at risk
    • Poverty and lack of education perpetuate high adolescent birth rates
    • Progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed & use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education