UN Agencies: One Woman Dies Every Two Minutes Due to Pregnancy or Childbirth
*70% of maternal deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Every two minutes, one woman dies globally during pregnancy or childbirth, a report by United Nations (UN) agencies has revealed.
The report, ‘Trends in Maternal Mortality
2000 to 2020,’ which was unveiled at the weekend by the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Bank Group and United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) /Population Division reveals alarming setbacks for women’s health over recent years.
According to the report, maternal deaths either increased or stagnated in nearly all regions of the world.
Commenting on the report, the WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “While pregnancy should be a time of immense hope and a positive experience for all women, it is tragically still a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to high quality, respectful health care.
“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.”
The report, which tracks maternal deaths nationally, regionally and globally from 2000 to 2020, showed there were an estimated 287 000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020, indicating only a slight decrease from 309, 000 in 2016 when the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect.
While the report presents some significant progress in reducing maternal deaths between 2000 and 2015, gains largely stalled, or in some cases even reversed, after this point.
In two of the eight UN regions – Europe and Northern America, and Latin America and the Caribbean – the maternal mortality rate increased from 2016 to 2020, by 17 per cent and 15 per cent respectively. Elsewhere, the rate stagnated.
The report noted, however, that progress was possible. For example, two regions – Australia and New Zealand, and Central and Southern Asia – experienced significant declines (by 35 per cent and 16 per cent respectively) in their maternal mortality rates during the same period, as did 31 countries across the world.
In her remarks, the UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, said: “For millions of families, the miracle of childbirth is marred by the tragedy of maternal deaths.
“No mother should have to fear for her life while bringing a baby into the world, especially when the knowledge and tools to treat common complications exist. Equity in healthcare gives every mother, no matter who they are or where they are, a fair chance at a safe delivery and a healthy future with their family.”
In total numbers, it showed that maternal deaths continued to be largely concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and in countries affected by conflict.
In 2020, about 70 per cent of all maternal deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, maternal mortality rates were more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, compared to 223 globally).
“This report provides yet another stark reminder of the urgent need to double down on our commitment to women and adolescent health.
“With immediate action, more investments in primary health care and stronger, more resilient health systems, we can save lives, improve health and well-being, and advance the rights of and opportunities for women and adolescents,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, and Director of the Global Financing Facility.