Asia`s maternal mortality rate declines 52%: Report

Asia`s maternal mortality rate declined by 52% in last two decades against a 34% decline globally.

New Delhi: Asia`s maternal mortality rate declined by 52 percent in the last two decades against a 34 percent decline globally, a report released Wednesday said.

In Asia, the number of maternal deaths is estimated to have dropped from 315,000 to 139,000 between 1990-2008, the report, "Trends in Maternal Mortality" by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children`s Fund (Unicef), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.

Globally, the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth fell by 34 percent from 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008, the report said.

Though the figure is encouraging, yet it is well below the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target -- by 75 percent --between 1990 and 2015.

This will require an annual decline of 5.5 percent. The 34 percent decline since 1990 translates into an average annual decline of just 2.3 percent, the report says.

"Countries where women are facing a high risk of death during pregnancy or childbirth are taking measures that are proving effective; they are training more midwives, and strengthening hospitals and health centres to assist pregnant women. No woman should die due to inadequate access to family planning and to pregnancy and delivery care," said WHO director general Margaret Chan.

According to the report, every day about 1,000 women died due to various pregnancy complications in 2008. Of them, 570 lived in sub-Saharan Africa, 300 in South Asia and five in high-income countries.

"The risk of a woman in a developing country dying from a pregnancy-related cause during her lifetime is about 36 times higher compared to a woman living in a developed country," the report stated.

"To achieve our global goal of improving maternal health and to save women`s lives we need to do more to reach those who are most at risk. That means reaching women in rural areas and poorer households, women from ethnic minorities and indigenous groups and women living with HIV and in conflict zones," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake.

To achieve the desired MDG, UNFPA executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said: "The lack of maternal healthcare violates women`s rights to life, health, equality and non-discrimination. We urgently need to address the shortage of health workers and step up funding for reproductive health services."

In sub-Saharan Africa the maternal mortality went down by 26 percent. Ninety nine percent of all maternal deaths in 2008 took place in developing regions, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia accounting for 57 percent and 30 percent of all deaths respectively, the report said.