About 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. It was estimated that in 2015, roughly 3,03,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.

Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities. Between 1990 and 2015, the global maternal mortality ratio declined by only 2.3 per cent per year. However, increased rates of accelerated decline in maternal mortality were observed from 2000 onwards. In some countries, annual declines in maternal mortality between 2000-2010 were above 5.5 per cent.

Seeing that it is possible to accelerate the decline, countries have now united behind a new target to reduce maternal mortality even further. Between 2016 and 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the target is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 1,00,000 live births, with no country having a maternal mortality rate of more than twice the global average.

The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor. Almost all maternal deaths (99 per cent) occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia. More than half of maternal deaths occur in fragile and humanitarian settings.

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