MDGs & Gender
GOAL 5: Improve maternal health
Target 5a

Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.

[New] Target 5b

Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

  • Maternal mortality ratio
  • Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel
[NEW] Indicators
  • Contraceptive prevalence rate
  • Adolescent birth rate
  • Antenatal care coverage (at least one visit and at least four visits during the entire pregnancy)
  • Unmet need for family planning

This constitutes the most off-track of all MDGs. Globally, over half a million women every year die during pregnancy or childbirth, and over 90 per cent of these largely preventable deaths occur in developingcountries. The link between the MDGs and accountability is nowhere clearer than here: governments that answer to women would invest in preventing these deaths.

Figure MDG5.1 shows that there has been a decrease of less than 7 per cent in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2005. This translates into a decrease in the maternal mortality ratio from 430 (deaths per 100,000 live births) in 1990 to 400 in 2005. According to recent estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), this rate (roughly less than 0.4 per cent per year at the global level) falls far short of the 5.5 per cent annual reduction in maternal deaths required to achieve the global target.

Figure MDG5.1: High Levels of Maternal Mortality Persist in Some Regions

Sub-Saharan Africa experienced an absolute increase in the number of maternal deaths (from 212,000 in 1990 to 270,000 in 2005) accompanied by an increase in the number of live births (from 23 million in 1990 to 30 million in 2005).

Notes: *1990 estimates have been revised for 2005 using the same methodology. Due to unavailability of country level data for 1990, regional averages based on UNIFEM groupings could be not be computed. This figure presents estimates based on UNICEF regional groupings, which differ from UNIFEM groupings as follows: Djjbouti, Sudan and Iran are grouped with Middle East and North Africa; Hong Kong and several countries from CEE/CIS such as Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, the Holy See, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are included in the group of developed/industrialised countries. The MMRs have been rounded according to the following scheme: < 100, no rounding; 100–999, rounded to nearest 10; and >1,000, rounded to nearest 100. The numbers of maternal deaths have been rounded as follows: < 1,000, rounded to nearest 10, 1,000–9,999, rounded to nearest 100; and >10,000, rounded to nearest 1,000.
Sources: WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank, (2007).

Figure MDG5.1 also illustrates striking regional differences in maternal mortality ratios, which are disproportionately high in sub-Saharan Africa at around 920 (deaths per 100,000 live births) in 2005, down only slightly from 1990. On average one in 22 women dies in this region from pregnancy-related causes. High maternal mortality ratios are also prevalent in South Asia, but an important decrease has occurred in this region, from 650 (deaths per 100,000 live births) in 1990 to 500 in 2005. Currently, one in 59 women in the region faces a risk of dying from maternal causes during her lifetime. By contrast, developed regions have a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 8,000 women (see Chapter 3).

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