ISLAMABAD: According to the most recent estimates, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes, according to a report released by United Nations agencies, which emphasized that the world must significantly accelerate progress to meet global targets for reducing maternal deaths, or risk the lives of over one million more women by 2030.
The report, “Trends in Maternal Mortality,” released on Thursday by WHO, Unicef, UNFPA, the World Bank, and the UN Population Division, reveals alarming setbacks for women’s health in recent years, with maternal deaths increasing or remaining stable in nearly every region of the world.
Deaths in a single year
“It is inexcusable that so many women continue to die needlessly during pregnancy and childbirth. “It is unconscionable to have over 280,000 deaths in a single year,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.
“We can and must do better by investing urgently in family planning and filling the global shortage of 900,000 midwives so that women can have children.”
Every woman can receive life-saving care. We have the tools, knowledge, and resources to eliminate preventable maternal deaths; we just need political will.”
Maternal mortality rates increased by 17% and 15%, respectively, in two of the eight UN regions: Europe and Northern America and Latin America and the Caribbean, from 2016 to 2020. Elsewhere, the rate has remained stable.
However, the report acknowledges that progress is possible. During the same time period, two regions — Australia and New Zealand, and Central and Southern Asia saw significant decreases in maternal mortality rates (by 35% and 16%, respectively), as did 31 countries worldwide.
“While pregnancy should be a time of great hope and a positive experience for all women, it is still a shockingly dangerous experience for millions around the world who lack access to high-quality, respectful health care,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
According to the report, which tracks maternal deaths on a national, regional, and global scale from 2000 to 2020, there will be an estimated 287 000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020. This is only a slight decrease from the 309,000 recorded in 2016 when the Sustainable Development Goals were implemented.
While the report shows some significant progress in reducing maternal deaths between 2000 and 2015, gains largely stalled or were reversed in some cases, after that point.
One-third of women do not get essential postnatal care
According to the report, roughly do not receive even four of the recommended eight antenatal checks or essential postnatal care, and 270 million women do not have access to modern family planning methods.
Controlling their reproductive health, particularly when and if to have children, is critical to ensuring that women can plan and space childbearing while protecting their health.
Inequities based on income, education, race, or ethnicity compound the risks for marginalized pregnant women, who have the least access to essential maternity care but are the most likely to experience underlying health problems during pregnancy.
“The miracle of childbirth is marred for millions of families by the tragedy of maternal deaths,” said Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell. “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.
Maternal deaths in the poorest countries
Maternal deaths continue to be disproportionately concentrated in the world’s poorest regions and in conflict-torn countries. Sub-Saharan Africa was responsible for roughly 70% of all maternal deaths in 2020. Maternal mortality rates were more than double the global average in nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises.
“This report serves as yet another stark reminder of the critical need to double down on our commitment to women and adolescent health,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, World Bank Global Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population and Director of the Global Financing Facility.