Maternal Mortality Statistics

Maternal Mortality Statistics

287,000  women die each year – one every two minutes – from pregnancy related causes. Ninety-nine per cent of these deaths occur in developing countries.

A maternal death can occur at any time up to 42 days after childbirth but delivery is by far the most dangerous time for both mother and baby [1]. 
The Word Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 15 percent of all pregnant women worldwide will, at some point in their pregnancy, develop complications that require essential obstetric care, and one on five will require some kind of surgery. The percentage of women that die during pregnancy or before 42 days after termination of the pregnancy, the so called maternal mortality rate, shows the disastrous results of lacking obstetric facilities and health care in many developing countries and (post) conflict areas. Comparing maternal mortality rates shows an average of 240 deaths per 100,000 live births in developing countries where the health care infrastructure is often substandard, while in the developed part of the world this average is merely 16 on 100,0001 above. Mortality rates vary greatly per continent, country and area (table 1.1). In India, for example, the maternal deaths of only one day exceed those of all maternal deaths in all industrialized countries taken together of an entire month[2].
The combination of a humanitarian emergency like aggravating political instability or armed conflicts in an area with already high rates of maternal deaths has even more lethal consequences, portrayed by the tremendous high maternal mortality rate of 2,054 per 100,000 live births in post war Sudan[3]. Not only are public health infrastructures often destroyed during armed conflicts, which negatively impacts vulnerable groups like women and infants, those suffering from war are also often faced with malnutrition, inadequate sanitation and water supply, poor hygiene and overcrowding (within refugee settlements). These challenges along with mental stress and lacking facilities cause the number of obstetric problems to increase. The Safe The Children’s database confirms that 64 percent of the countries scoring highest on maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates experience either war or conflict within their borders[4].

[1] Medicine Sans Frontieres. (2012). Maternal death: The avoidable Crisis. Retrieved on July 10, 2013 from:

[2] WHO. (1991). Essential Elements of Obstetric Care at First Referral Level. Retrieved on August 3, 2013 from:

[3] CRED. (2011). Health Data in Civil Conflicts. South Sudan Under Scrutiny. Retrieved on August 4, 2013 from:

[4] Gasseer, N. A. (2004). Status of Women and Infants in complex humanitarian situations. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 49, p. 7 – 13.