UNICEF photoThe proportion of women in sub-Saharan Africa who died because of pregnancy fell by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2008, according to estimates released yesterday.

Twenty years ago, the region’s maternal mortality ratio was 870 deaths per 100,000 live births, the worst rate of any region in the world.

But, in 2008, it was 640, according to data published jointly by the World Health Organization, UN Children’s Fund (UNFPA), the UN Population Fund and the World Bank.

Globally, the ratio fell by 34 percent, from 400 to 260, states the report, noting that this represented an annual decline of 2.3 percent.

“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.

There are increasing efforts in countries to train more midwives, provide family planning, and strengthen hospitals and health centres to provide care to pregnant women.

“We welcome and are thrilled by the decline, which shows that interventions are working,” Obaid said. But we need to do more.”

Data were collected in 172 countries. 63 provided complete information from civil registration systems and good attribution of causes of death for the estimates. The total estimate worldwide is less than half the reduction needed to achieve the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which concerns maternal health. (IRIN News)

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