Despite the improvement in maternal health is is still far short of meeting the Millennium Development Goal of halving maternal death rates. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most dangerous place to birth a baby due in part by lack of funding and education.
From the Inter Press Service, writer Susan Anyangu-Amu gives us the details of the maternal health report from the WHO.
The statistics in the "Trends in Maternal Mortality" report released by the World Health Organisation. on Sep. 15 cover the period from 1990 to 2008, revealing that maternal mortality fell from 540,000 deaths worldwide in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008 - a 34 percent decline.
Several reasons are cited for the reduction in number of maternal deaths, including improvement in health systems to assist pregnant women and increased education of women, raising awareness of the importance of delivering with skilled help.
Around the world, more midwives are also being trained. The proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel rose from 53 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2008. The proportion of women who attended a pre-natal clinic at least once during their also rose from 64 percent to 80 percent.
The use of contraceptives by women aged 15-49 also rose: East Asia which experienced the greatest reduction in maternal deaths has a contraceptive prevalence rate of 86 percent. Sub-Saharan Africa, where contraceptives are used by just 22 percent of women, recorded one of the lowest declines of maternal mortality.
Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia still account for 87 percent of global maternal deaths.
Nearly two thirds of all maternal deaths take place in just eleven countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Tanzania.
South Asia recorded an overall maternal mortality rate of 280 deaths per 100,000 live births. Sub-Saharan Africa had a rate of 640 per 100,000. Afghanistan, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia all recorded maternal mortality rates over 1,000 per 100,000 live births.
The rate of progress recorded in the U.N. figures is less than half of what is needed to achieve MDG target for reducing maternal deaths, translating into an average annual decline of 2.3 percent since 1990. To meet MDG target five an annual decline of 5.5 percent is required