Home / Issue / MDG Goal 5

MDG Goal 5

Improve Maternal Health


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

2. Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health

Quick Facts

  1. More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them — 99 per cent — in developing countries.
  2. The maternal mortality rate is declining only slowly, even though the vast majority of deaths are avoidable.
  3. In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s maternal mortality risk is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions.
  4. Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless. Children who have lost their mothers are up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely than those who have not.

Maternal mortality remains unacceptably high.
New data show signs of progress in improving maternal health — the health of women during pregnancy and childbirth — with some countries achieving significant declines in maternal mortality ratios. But progress is still well short of the 5.5 per cent annual decline needed to meet the MDG target of reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio by 2015. 

Progress has been made in sub-Saharan Africa, with some countries halving maternal mortality levels between 1990 and 2008. Other regions, including Asia and Northern Africa, have made even greater headway.

Most maternal deaths could be avoided.
More than 80 per cent of maternal deaths are caused by haemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labour and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy. Most of these deaths are preventable when there is access to adequate reproductive health services, equipment, supplies and skilled healthcare workers.

More women are receiving antenatal care and skilled assistance during delivery.
In all regions, progress is being made in providing pregnant women with antenatal care. In North Africa, the percentage of women seeing a skilled health worker at least once during pregnancy jumped by 70 per cent. Southern Asia and Western Asia reported increases of almost 50 per cent, with coverage increasing to 70 per cent of pregnant
women in Southern Asia and 79 per cent in Western Asia. In 2008, skilled health workers attended 63 per cent of births in the developing world, up from 53 per cent in 1990. Progress was made in all regions, but was especially dramatic in Northern
Africa and South-Eastern Asia, with increases of 74 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively.

Large disparities still exist in providing pregnant women with antenatal care and skilled assistance during delivery. Poor women in remote areas are least likely to receive adequate care. This is especially true for regions where the number of skilled health workers remains low and maternal mortality high — in particular sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Oceania. HIV is also curtailing progress, contributing significantly to maternal mortality in some countries.

The risk of maternal mortality is highest for adolescent girls and increases with each pregnancy, yet progress on family planning has stalled and funding has not kept pace with demand. Contraceptive use has increased over the last decade. By 2007, 62 per cent of women who were married or in union were using some form of contraception. However, these increases are lower than in the 1990s.

※Issued by the UN Department of Public Information – DPI/2650 E/Rev.1 – September 2010