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    An Update on Maternal Mortality: Fulfilling SDG 3

    By Sammy Witt, UN Youth Rep

    In the WHO’s Constitution, it is stated that, “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.” 1 Nevertheless, 800 women die from preventable maternal related illnesses every day.2

    Improving maternal health was one of the eight Millennium Development Goals decided upon in 2000 and replaced in 2015 by the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG Goal 3 is to ensure, “Good Health and Well-Being for All at All Ages”.

    There are several factors contributing to preventable deaths. The main reasons are related to medical complications and problems that trained midwives, nurses, or doctors can easily treat or prevent if present and properly equipped. Postpartum bleeding, sepsis due to bad hygienic standards, and unsafe abortions are just a few of the things killing women. Poverty, distance, lack of information, and cultural practices are often responsible for this.

    Unsafe abortions alone kill around 47,000 women every year; about 130 women every day.3 This makes up 13% of maternal deaths, and if unsafe abortions don’t kill women, they often put them in hospital with horrific complications, leaving them infertile, facing major abdominal surgery, and enormous medical bills. Because of this, the World Health Organization suggests legalizing abortions and increasing the availability of professional care.

    Even though, as part of the Millennium Development Goals, the UN aimed to reduce global maternal deaths by 75% between 1990 and 2015, there was only a 45% reduction.4 Despite this, the improvement is still an impressive figure.5 Maternal mortality is not usually measured in absolute figures, but by deaths per 100,000 births. The new SDG target for maternal health is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.6

    The UN’s part in all of this is implementing SDG3. “The Strategy (…) seeks to end all preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents and create an environment in which these groups not only survive, but thrive, and see their environments, health and wellbeing transformed.”7


    1 “Constitution of the World Health Organization, Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement”, October 2006, http://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf

    2Haddou, Leila. “Maternal mortality down 45% globally, but 33 women an hour are still dying”, 7 May 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/may/07/maternal-mortality-rate-drops-half-report-who-childbirth-pregnancy

    3 “Preventing Unsafe Abortions”, 2008, http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/unsafe_abortion/magnitude/en/

    4Max, ”MDG 5: Improve maternal health”,15 November 2015, http://www.mdgmonitor.org/mdg-5-improve-maternal-health/

    5Haddou, “Maternal mortality”

    6”SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs/sdg-3-good-health-well-being,

    7 ”Maternal Mortality-fact Sheet” November 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs348/en/




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