While substantial progress has been achieved, recent research shows that, for every 100,000 children born worldwide, 211 women still die due to pregnancy-related complications. Most of the world’s maternal deaths occur in developing regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounting for two in three deaths (66%) and South Asia for a further 20%.
The lifetime risk of maternal death for women in least developed countries overall is one in 56. And it is even higher for Sub-Saharan Africa, with one in every 37 women dying due to complications related to pregnancy, compared with one in just 7,800 in high-income countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Most of these deaths are preventable if pregnant women receive the healthcare that they need when they need it.
Child mortality still severe
According to new research, child mortality rates more than halved between 1990 and 2018 – with under-five deaths dropping from 12.5 million per year in 1990 to 5.3 million in 2018. Yet 15,000 children under five still die every day. A child’s chance of survival is still vastly different based on where he or she is born: Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with one child in 13 dying before his or her fifth birthday—more than 16 times higher than the one in 199 average in high-income countries.
Globally women are giving birth to fewer children today than three decades ago. However, there are still a handful of countries with persistently high fertility such as Niger (7.0), Mali (6.0) or Democratic Republic of Congo (6.0). In other countries with lower fertility such as Ethiopia, fertility varies within different regions. It ranges from 1.7 in Addis Ababa, the capital city, to 6.4 in Somali, a regional state in Ethiopia. Among countries with persistently high fertility, there is often a high burden of maternal, infant and child mortality.
Adolescent fertility increases risk of death
Adolescent fertility is also high in countries with high fertility. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the adolescent fertility rate is 102 births per 1,000 girls. More than a fourth of girls and women in Sub-Saharan Africa cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and maternal, infant and child mortality and morbidity. Adolescent girls are more likely to experience complications due to pregnancy such as obstructed labor and eclampsia, increasing their risk of death. Children born to adolescents are also more likely to have a low birth weight, ill-health, stunting and other poor nutritional outcomes.
Fertility is also a key driver of population dynamics. Many countries that are experiencing rapid population growth also have young populations. Such countries have the potential of benefiting from the demographic dividend: by investing in the health and well-being of their people to build human capital, countries can reduce poverty and boost inclusive growth.
Last Updated: Apr 02, 2020