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Maternal and newborn health

© UNICEF Kenya/2010/Kun Li
A mother breastfeeds her newborn baby, while resting at the maternal ward of the Kisumu District Hospital in Kenya.

In 2010, close to 58,000 women lost their lives in pregnancy and childbirth in Eastern and Southern Africa, accounting for more than one fifth of all such deaths in the world.

In Somalia, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from maternal causes is 1 in 16, a close second to Chad’s 1 in 15 – the highest in the world.

Between 1990 and 2010, maternal mortality in ESA has fallen from 740 to 410 deaths per 100,000 births. However, the pace of progress is far too slow. 

Only Eritrea is on track to reach MDG 5, reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters by 2015. 

Angola, Comoros, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are making progress (annual average decline of 2-5.5 per cent); while the other countries are making insufficient (less than 2 per cent) or no progress at all (an annual increase).

Many maternal deaths could be avoided if mothers were attended at birth by skilled health professionals, and if essential supplies, equipment and facilities were available. 

More than half of all births in the region take place without the support of a skilled birth attendant. 

In Ethiopia, for example, 90 percent of women deliver their babies without the help of any trained health professional.

Hemorrhage is by far the leading cause of maternal deaths. Together with hypertension, it accounts for more than half of all maternal deaths.

In most of sub-Saharan Africa, including ESA, neonatal mortality has seen no significant change in over a decade.

Nearly 4 in 10 under-five deaths are among newborns up to 28 days of age, making neonatal mortality reduction increasingly the ‘unfinished business’ of under-five mortality reduction. 

Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Somalia and South Africa, account for 75 per cent of all neonatal deaths in the region. 

Both neonatal and maternal mortality are heavily concentrated around the period of delivery and the first week after birth. Most of these deaths occur at home, from complications during birth and those related to preterm birth.

Two-thirds of such deaths could be saved if mothers and babies were attended by trained health professionals.



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