According to new data released by the United Nations agencies, a woman dies every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth, indicating significant setbacks for maternal health worldwide.
The report “Trends in maternal mortality” by United Nations shows that maternal deaths either increased or stagnated in almost all regions of the world, with only a slight decrease in estimated global maternal deaths from 309,000 in 2016 to 287,000 in 2020. The poorest parts of the world and countries affected by conflict continue to experience the largest number of maternal deaths.
This report highlights the urgent need to ensure every woman and girl has access to essential health services before, during and after childbirth to exercise their reproductive rights fully. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, emphasized that “these new statistics reveal the urgent need to ensure every woman and girl has access to critical health services before, during and after childbirth, and that they can fully exercise their reproductive rights.”
Two of the eight UN regions reported increases in maternal mortality rates between 2016 and 2020, with Europe and Northern America seeing a 17% increase, and Latin America and the Caribbean a 15% increase. Conversely, two regions, Australia and New Zealand, and Central and Southern Asia, experienced significant declines (by 35% and 16% respectively) in their maternal mortality rates during the same period, as did 31 countries worldwide. The report reveals that maternal deaths continue to be concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and in countries affected by conflict, with approximately 70% of all maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
The leading causes of maternal deaths, such as severe bleeding, high blood pressure, pregnancy-related infections, complications from unsafe abortion, and underlying conditions aggravated by pregnancy, are largely preventable and treatable with access to high-quality and respectful healthcare. However, weak supply chains for medical products, a lack of trained healthcare workers, and underfunding of primary health care systems threaten progress in maternal health. Women, particularly marginalized pregnant women, face increased risks for underlying health problems in pregnancy related to income, education, or ethnicity. A lack of access to essential maternity care, with only a third of women receiving four or more of the recommended eight antenatal checks or essential postnatal care, and 270 million women lacking access to modern family planning methods, increases these risks. The United Nations’ Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Director, John Wilmoth, emphasized that “reducing maternal mortality remains one of the most pressing global health challenges.”
The COVID-19 pandemic may have further held back progress on maternal health, although the current data series only covers until 2020. The pandemic increased risks during pregnancy, making it crucial for countries to ensure pregnant women and those planning pregnancies have access to COVID-19 vaccines and effective antenatal care. UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem called for urgent investments in family planning and the filling of the global shortage of 900,000 midwives to end preventable maternal deaths.
This report reveals that the world must significantly accelerate progress to meet global targets for reducing maternal deaths, or else risk the lives of over 1 million more women by 2030.
Leave a Reply