In 1990, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR - expressed in deaths per 100,000 live births) was 870 in sub-Saharan Africa, the worst rate of any region in the world. In 2008, it was 640, according to data published jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.
Globally, the ratio fell by 34 percent, from 400 to 260, states the report, Trends in Maternal Mortality, noting that this represented an annual decline of 2.3 percent. This is less than half the reduction needed to achieve the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which concerns maternal health.
“There was a 26 percent reduction in maternal death rates in sub-Saharan Africa and this data is encouraging," Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of UNFPA, told IRIN.
|Africa's worst MMR rates in 2008 per 100,000 live births|
|Central African Republic||850|
Data were collected in 172 countries, but only 63 provided complete information from civil registration systems and good attribution of causes of death for the estimates.
“Maternal deaths are more often misclassified than other [deaths], not only because they are easily confused with deaths due to other causes, but also because health institutions may prefer to attribute them to other causes, due to the stigma of inadequate treatment associated with maternal death,” Lale Say, monitoring and evaluation officer with the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the WHO, told IRIN.
“Even in the best civil registration systems in the world, it has been found that maternal death can be substantially under-reported,” Say added.