White Ribbon Alliance

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Calls for action over maternal deaths as UN figures show slow recent progress

The Guardian

November 12, 2015
The number of women dying in childbirth has dropped by almost 44% over the past 25 years, according to the latest UN figures. But women’s rights activists said the figures were disappointing.

The number of maternal deaths fell from an estimated 532,000 to 303,000, said the World Health Organisation, UN agencies and the World Bank in a report published on Thursday.

Nigeria and India account for more than one-third of global deaths. In Nigeria, around 58,000 women died in pregnancy, childbirth or in the six weeks after birth this year, while the number of women dying in India is estimated to reach 45,000.

But despite the drop over the past quarter century, particularly since 2000 and the introduction of the millennium development goals, the figure has remained stubbornly hard to shift over the past few years.

Although data collection has improved, which will have a bearing on calculating the figures, last year’s report put the global drop in deaths at 45%. The previous year, there was an estimated 47% decline.

“Yes, [deaths] are almost 50% down, but it has been that since 2012. They are plateauing at best,” said Katja Iversen, CEO of global advocacy group Women Deliver. “It’s interesting that we can put a man in space, but we can’t save a woman from dying in childbirth.”

Brigid McConville, from the White Ribbon Alliance, said it was a “disgrace that so many women – and often their newborns – are still dying from entirely preventable causes and millions more experience poor-quality care and mistreatment in health facilities”.

She added: “Today’s figures show that progress in preventing maternal mortality is possible. White Ribbon Alliance is calling for urgent action to support the rights of women to life-saving, respectful maternal health services, wherever in the world they live.”

East Asia recorded the greatest improvement of any region since 1990, with maternal mortality rates falling from approximately 95 to 27 per 100,000 live births – a reduction of 72%.

Developed regions have seen maternal mortality fall 48% between 1990 and 2015, from 23 to 12 per 100,000 live births. But in the US, death rates have actually increased from 12 to 14 per 100,000 over that period. The UK has registered only a slight drop. Read The Full Article