From 1990 to 2010, the number of maternal deaths worldwide dropped from more than 540,000 to less than 290,000 – a decline of 47%. While substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% from 1990 to 2015.
One-third of all maternal deaths occur in two countries – in 2010, almost 20% of deaths (56,000) were in India, and 14% (40,000) were in Nigeria. Of the 40 countries with the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality, 36 are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Many low-income countries continue to be burdened by high rates of maternal mortality and high fertility, which are closely linked to high infant mortality and gender inequality. More than 1/4 of girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.