6 Improve maternal health

Where are we?

A mother receives treatment in a medical center in Morocco

Whilst several countries maintained low levels for their maternal mortality rate (MMR), including most of the GCC countries, there is substantial variation between countries. Some have achieved significant progress in reducing maternal mortality ratio (MMR), while others have seen little or no achievements at all; and, within countries, rural rates are sometimes more than five times greater than those in the capital city.

Countries with significant progress towards achieving reduction in MMR also have a higher proportion of births attended by skilled personnel. All sub-regions except the LDCs have made significant improvements in skilled delivery attendance. Most of births in the GCC are attended, and Mashreq sub-region has a slightly higher figure of skilled birth attendance than that of the Maghreb sub-region.

In general 8 out 10 births are attended in both sub-regions. Both Mashreq and Maghreb subregions made remarkable progress in increasing family planning, where about 6 out of 10 married women are using family planning methods. Although the rate of family planning declined in GCC countries, it remained higher than that of LDCs, where it hardly reached 15 per cent during the first decade of the 21st century. Data on adolescent fertility rate show discrepancies among sub-regions despite the decline witnessed during the past period in all sub-regions.

While the GCC and Maghreb sub-regions have successfully lowered adolescent fertility to less than 20 per 1000 girls, the Mashreq and the LDCs sub-regions performance is very poor being over 50 for Mashreq and over 70 for LDCs.

All of the four sub-regions showed progress in antenatal coverage between 1990s and 2000s. 8 out of 10 pregnant women in the GCC, the Mashreq and the Maghreb region, and 6 in 10 pregnant women in LDCs receive antenatal care. At the country level, an increase in antenatal care has been observed in most countries, reaching nearly complete coverage in several of them: UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. On the other extreme, women in Yemen and Somalia have received the least amount of antenatal care (4 in 10 pregnant women).


Maternal Mortality Ratio: estimated trend and expected MDG goal

The figures are estimates taken from a maternal mortality study made by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and World Bank and each agency provided regional estimates based on its definition of the region.

Our Stories

  • Mothers and babies wait to see health workers.

    Mobile clinic reaches remote communities

      Abuop Deng lifts up her baby’s shirt and shows a community health worker a rash that covers the infant’s stomach. He has had it formore

Targets for MDG 5
  1. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
    • Most maternal deaths could be avoided
    • Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care
    • The rural-urban gap in skilled care during childbirth has narrowed
  2. Achieve universal access to reproductive health & inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health
    • More women are receiving antenatal care
    • Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking
    • Only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy
    • Progress has stalled in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, putting more young mothers at risk
    • Poverty and lack of education perpetuate high adolescent birth rates
    • Progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed & use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education