The number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34% from an estimated 546 000 in 1990 to 358 000 in 2008, according to a new report, "Trends in maternal mortality", released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank. The progress is notable, but the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75% between 1990 and 2015.
Pregnant women still die from four major causes: severe bleeding after childbirth, infections, hypertensive disorders, and unsafe abortion. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 52,000 women died due to these complications in 2008.
UN agencies, donors and other partners have increasingly coordinated their assistance to countries. WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank are focusing on the countries with the greatest burden and help governments to develop and align their national health plans in order to accelerate progress in maternal and newborn health.
The following priority actions for accelerating the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: achieving political commitment; promoting a favourable policy and legislative environment; ensuring adequate financing; strengthening the delivery of health care services; empowering women, families and communities; and strengthening monitoring and evaluation for better decision-making.