New Report Comparing Worldwide Maternal Mortality Rates

By Rachel Walden — October 15, 2007

A new report on has been released by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank summarizing maternal deaths around the world in 2005 and trends between 1990 and 2005. Among the findings:


  • The maternal mortality rate (maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) was highest in developing regions at 450 per 100,000 compared with 9 per 100,000 in developed regions.



  • Thirteen nations had maternal mortality rates higher than 1,000 (or >1 percent), with Sierra Leone having the highest at 2,100 per 100,00. Of these, all but Afghanistan are in sub-Saharan Africa. The Democratic Republic of Congo, which we wrote about last week, has a rate of 1,100 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births and a lifetime risk of death from maternity-related causes of 1 in 15.



  • The United States had a maternal mortality rate of 11 per 100,000 live births. Numerous countries, primarily in Europe, had lower rates than the United States; Ireland’s was the lowest at 1.



  • Globally, there was a 5.4% decline in maternal mortality from 1990 to 2005, although the decrease varies widely by region.


A summary of the findings is available in The Lancet, and the entire report can be downloaded as a PDF from the UNFPA website. The current issue of The Lancet (subscription only) focuses entirely on maternal health; the journal’s editor summed up the global picture thusly:

This is a crucial moment to redress an appalling historical neglect. It is time for a new wave of 21st century activism to throw a bright light on the low status of women. The need is known as is the knowledge to fix it. More money exists than ever, and a range of existing global initiatives has yielded useful experiences and lessons. There can be no more excuses and no further delay. Women’s rights are worth fighting for; their lives can and must be saved.

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