Millennium Development Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Target: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
Insufficient maternal care during pregnancy and delivery is largely responsible for the staggering annual toll of more than half a million maternal deaths and the estimated 4 million newborn deaths that occur within the first month of life. Indeed, roughly three quarters of all maternal deaths occur during delivery and in the immediate postpartum period.
The single most critical intervention for safe motherhood is thus to ensure that women receive care during delivery by skilled health personnel - a doctor, nurse or midwife - with the necessary skills to handle normal deliveries safely, to recognize the onset of complications beyond their capacity and to refer the mother for emergency care as needed. Traditional birth attendants, whether trained or untrained, can neither predict nor cope with serious complications.
Overall, 61 per cent of births in developing countries – over 6 in 10 - are attended by skilled health personnel. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which bear the greatest burden of maternal mortality, also have the lowest levels of skilled birth attendance with less than half of births being delivered by a doctor, nurse or midwife. In contrast, 94 per cent of deliveries in CEE/CIS countries are attended by skilled personnel.