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technology 25 Nov 2019

United Nations calls upon global leaders to improve maternal health everywhere

By Peter Ongalo

The United Nations through the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Women branches recently called upon leaders worldwide to improve maternal healthcare everywhere. Maternal health has been a big issue in the health sector for quite some time now. It refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. The major causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour. The goal to increasing funding in maternal health services is key to achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals by the United Nations. According to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over 116 million babies have been born since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and they also strongly urged governments to maintain lifesaving services for pregnant women and newborns that are under increasing threat from strained health services and supply chains.

According to the most recent data, approximately 808 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy. This is about one woman every two minutes. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) statement on Maternal Health.

The high number of maternal deaths globally reflects the inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor. Almost all maternal deaths (99% of them) occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia. More than half of maternal deaths occur in fragile and humanitarian settings. This is exactly why they are trying to get leaders to improve healthcare worldwide more so in developing countries. In the developing regions, most pregnant women do not receive antenatal care visits.

The UN considers achievement of sexual and reproductive health a human rights issue. Failure to improve sexual and reproductive health has adverse effects as it also relates to numerous health outcomes such as infant and child mortality rates and HIV prevention and care. Early childbearing brings with it a number of health risks for mothers and their infants. It has also been linked to outcomes such as lower educational attainment and poverty. The African Region continues to have the highest birth rate among adolescents with approximately 120 births per 1000 adolescent women.

This therefore means, increased access to safe, affordable and effective methods of contraception has provided individuals with greater choices and opportunities for responsible decision-making in reproductive matters.


  • Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
  • Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women.
  • Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by about 44%.
  • Between 2016 and 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the target is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births.

Maternal mortality is unacceptably high. About 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. It was estimated that in 2015, roughly 303 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.1

Different Infographics on maternal statistics.

In sub-Saharan Africa, a number of countries halved their levels of maternal mortality since 1990. In other regions, including Asia and North Africa, even greater headway was made. Between 1990 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) declined by only 2.3% per year between 1990 and 2015. However, increased rates of accelerated decline in maternal mortality were observed from 2000 onwards. In some countries, annual declines in maternal mortality between 2000–2010 were above 5.5%.

Also Read: All you need to know about Endometriosis

The major complications that account for nearly 75% of all maternal deaths are:

  • severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after childbirth)
  • infections (usually after childbirth)
  • high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia)
  • complications from delivery
  • Unsafe abortion.