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Improve Maternal Health: MDG 5


  • More than 350,000 women die annually from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of them — 99 per cent — in developing countries.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s maternal mortality risk is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions.

New data show signs of progress in improving maternal health — the health of women during pregnancy and childbirth — with some countries achieving significant declines in maternal mortality ratios. Progress has been made in sub-Saharan Africa, with some countries halving maternal mortality levels between 1990 and 2008. Other regions, including Asia and Northern Africa, have made even greater headway.


In 2009, the Council held its Annual Ministerial Review on the theme of global public health. Ministers from 7 countries ―  Bolivia, China, Jamaica, Japan, Mali, Sri Lanka, Sudan ― delivered “National Voluntary Presentations”, which detailed their countries’ recent efforts to improve public health (including child health), while offering case studies on successful initiatives. Countries also adopted a strong “Ministerial Declaration”, highlighting key policies to promote healthier societies.

UN System

  • In 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, together with leaders from governments, foundations, NGOs and business, launched the “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health”, a series of simple steps to improve women’s and children’s health ― measures which, if implemented, could save 16 million lives by 2015.
  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank, as well as the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), have joined forces as Health 4+ (H4+) to support countries with the highest rates of maternal and newborn mortality. The H4+ partners support emergency obstetric and neonatal care needs assessments and help cost national maternal, newborn and child health plans, mobilize resources, increase the number of skilled health workers, and improve access to reproductive health services.
  • A programme led by UNFPA and the International Confederation for Midwives is active in 15 countries in Africa, the Arab States and Latin America, working closely with Ministers of Health and Education to increase the capacity and the number of midwives. Under the programme, Uganda has developed a plan to promote quality midwife training; Northern Sudan has developed the first ever national midwifery strategy; and in Ghana, a nationwide needs assessment of all the midwifery schools will help strengthen training.

Further reading…