11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have reduced maternal mortality, new UN data show

11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have reduced maternal mortality, new UN data show

PRESS RELEASE – A new United Nations report shows that 11 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in reducing deaths from pregnancy-related causes since 1990. However no country in the region is on track to meet the
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing maternal mortality 75 percent by 2015.

The 11 countries that significantly reduced maternal mortality (MMR down 40 percent or more since 1990) are Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru. Despite this progress, an estimated 9,300 women lost their lives in Latin America and the Caribbean due to pregnancy-related causes in 2013 (down from 17,000 maternal deaths in 1990).

The new report, Trends in maternal mortality estimates 1990 to 2013, estimates changes in maternal mortality worldwide and by region and country. It was produced jointly by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and the United Nations Population Division.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, maternal mortality declined an average 40 percent between 1990 and 2013, less than the global average and short of the 75 percent MDG target for 2015. However, the region’s overall maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 85 deaths per 100,000 live births is considered “low” (<100) among developing regions.

“We have seen progress in saving mothers’ lives in the Americas, and we welcome that,” said Suzanne Serruya, Director of the Latin American Center for Perinatology/Women’s and Reproductive Health (CLAP), a Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) technical center. “But the fact that more than 9,000 women lost their lives from maternal causes last year is unacceptable and means we have a major challenge to reduce those numbers.”

Globally, maternal deaths have declined 45 percent since 1990. An estimated 289,000 women died worldwide in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, down from 523,000 in 1990. Another WHO study, published in The Lancet Global Health, casts light on why these women are dying. “Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis” finds that more than one in four maternal deaths are caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, whose health impacts can all be aggravated by pregnancy.

Trends in maternal mortality estimates shows that 11 countries that had high levels of maternal mortality in 1990 (Bhutan, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Romania, Rwanda, Timor-Leste) have already reached the MDG target of a 75 percent reduction in maternal mortality from the 1990 rate by 2015. Based on these latest trends however, many low- and middle-income countries—including countries in Latin America and the Caribbean—will not achieve the goal.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the riskiest region in the world for dying of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, with a lifetime maternal mortality risk of 1 in 38.

In contrast, the lifetime risk of a woman dying from a maternal cause in Latin America was 1 in 570 and in the Caribbean, 1 in 220. Although these compare favorably with the average risk of 1 in 160 in all developing regions, they are considerably higher than the risk in the United States (1 in 1,800) and Canada (1 in 5,200).

Despite advances in the last 20 years, there has been too little progress in preventing adolescent pregnancies, abortions, maternal
deaths, sexually-transmitted infections and HIV, and there are significant gaps in availability, quality and access to comprehensive
sexuality education and services for young people, especially in low-income countries.

“More than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 years give birth every year – one in five girls before they turn 18 – and many of these
pregnancies result from non-consensual sex,” said Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director, UNFPA. “Relatively simple and well-known interventions, like midwifery services and gender-based violence prevention and response, can make a huge difference if scaled up and coupled with investments in innovations, especially in the area of contraceptives.”



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