In 2000, 189 countries met together and made a promise to free the people of the world from extreme poverty and deprivation. The aim was that this would be achieved by 2015. This commitment was formalised in the publication of the United Nations Millennium Declaration which commited world leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, discrimination against women and environmental degradation.
In order to achieve the overall aim, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were put in place providing a framework for actions to be taken and against which progress would be measured. These were to:
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Develop a global partnership for development
The MDGs were inter-dependent; all the MDG influence health, and health influences all the MDGs. For example, better health enables children to learn and adults to earn. Gender equality is essential to the achievement of better health. Reducing poverty, hunger and environmental degradation positively influences, but also depends on, better health.
The MDGs and Maternal Health
The international community recognised that the number of deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, particularly in developing countries, was unacceptably high. A specific goal, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, was put in place to ‘Improve maternal health.’ It was supported by:
- Target 5a: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio and
- Target 5b: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health.
Progress towards MDG 5
Between 2000 and 2015 the number of women dying in childbirth in the world each year decreased from 543,000 to 287,000, a huge amount of progress.
Between 2000 & 2015 the number of women dying in childbirth fell by 45% worldwide
Maternal survival has significantly improved since the adoption of the MDGs. The maternal mortality ratio dropped by 45 per cent worldwide between 1990 and 2013, from 380 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 210. Many developing regions have made steady progress in improving maternal health, including the regions with the highest maternal mortality ratios. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa it fell by 49 per cent.
- Since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio has been cut nearly in half, and most of the reduction has occurred since 2000
More than 71% of births were assisted by skilled health personnel globally in 2014, an increase from 59% in 1990
In the developing regions, only 56% of births in rural areas are attended by skilled health personnel, compared with 87% in urban areas
Only half of pregnant women in the developing regions receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal care visits
Just 51% of countries have data on maternal cause of death
Despite a significant reduction in the number of maternal deaths – from an estimated 523,000 in 1990 to 289,000 in 2013 – the rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the MDG target of a three quarters reduction in the mortality ratio between 1990 and 2015.
To reduce the number of maternal deaths, women need access to good-quality reproductive health care and effective interventions. In 2012, 64% of women aged 15–49 years who were married or in a consensual union were using some form of contraception, while 12% wanted to stop or postpone childbearing but were not using contraception.
The proportion of women receiving antenatal care at least once during pregnancy was about 83% for the period 2007–2014, but for the recommended minimum of 4 or more visits the corresponding figure drops to around 64%.
The proportion of births attended by skilled personnel – crucial for reducing perinatal, neonatal and maternal deaths – is above 90% in 3 of the 6 WHO regions. However, increased coverage is needed in certain regions, such as the WHO African Region where the figure was still only 51%.
The Sustainable Development Goals now replace the Millennium Development Goals and you can find out more here.
Further information on the MDGS
The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals Report 2015.
Additional information on progress in reducing maternal mortality is available from the World Health Organisation.
All the statistics on this page are taken from these two reports.