Maternal mortality declines & modeling the estimates continues to evolve

Exciting news for data enthusiasts & global health advocates: the UNFPA has released new trends on maternal mortality (1990-2010), with positive news.

The report shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 – a decline of 47 percent. While substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries particularly in sub-Saharan Africa will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2015. In happier news, ten countries have already reached the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in maternal death: Belarus, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Maldives, Nepal, Romania and Viet Nam.

In 2010, the global maternal mortality ratio was 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest maternal mortality ratio at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. For women in sub-Saharan Africa, this means each woman faces a 1 in 39 lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. In Southeast Asia the risk is 1 in 290 and in developed countries, it is 1 in 3,800, nearly 100-fold higher than in sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite obvious gains in maternal survival, disparities across countries and regions continues to be a challenge. Like in child survival, where five countries account for the majority of under-five deaths, ten countries account for 60 percent of the global maternal deaths: India (56,000), Nigeria (40,000), Democratic Republic of the Congo (15,000), Pakistan (12,000), Sudan (10,000), Indonesia (9,600), Ethiopia (9,000), United Republic of Tanzania (8,500), Bangladesh (7,200) and Afghanistan (6,400).

One-third of all maternal deaths occur in just two countries – in 2010, almost 20 percent of deaths (56,000) were in India and 14 percent (40,000) were in Nigeria. Of the 40 countries with the world’s highest rates of maternal death, 36 are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Note that these new estimates replace the previous trends from the Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990-2008 report released in 2010. As some of you may know, maternal mortality estimates are modeled using a complex and often changing methodology – thus the conflicting data we saw between the Murray et al 2008 estimates and the WHO estimates for the same year.
Challenges in estimating MMR shouldn’t preclude us from continuing to adapt and refine the methods for doing so; numbers and information are power in today’s society, providing global health and women’s advocates with ammunition to continue to fund maternal health programs. When using the data though, make sure you take all data by year (1990, 2000, 2010) from the same report, as methods for modeling the MMR data over time sometimes changes. Complete methodology for how the figures were estimated is included in the report.

2 thoughts on “Maternal mortality declines & modeling the estimates continues to evolve

  1. Thanks for sharing! It’s one of the more useful reports & sets of estimates that gets published (or at least one that I reference often).

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