5. Improve maternal health


5.A) Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio.

5.B) Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health.


Goal 5


The 5th MDG "Improve maternal health" is one of the goals which is most unlikely to be met by 2015. The European Commission's website states that even today, more than 1 million children per year lose their mothers due to factors relating to childbirth, with an estimated 68,000 deaths per year resulting from unsafe abortions carried out in developing countries. Improvements in maternal health require access to efficient reproductive healthcare facilities which can provide prompt and ongoing care. The majority of maternal deaths could be prevented, particularly by ensuring that young and vulnerable girls who want to avoid or delay pregnancy have access to safe and effective healthcare.

The most common causes of maternal mortality in developing countries relate to complications during pregnancy or childbirth, which represent a life-threatening challenge to the women who face them. As highlighted in the United Nations' 2010 Report on the MDGs, a further serious challenge lies in the systematic underestimation of the phenomenon, due to difficulties in its quantification. Nonetheless, the latest data reveal improvements in terms of maternal mortality rates worldwide, which appear to be due to improved access to and provision of reproductive health services for women, signalling a degree of progress towards achieving this goal. New assessments are currently being carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The statistics available to date show signs of further progress, with a number of countries witnessing significant improvements in maternal mortality rates. The rate of improvement is, however, still currently below the 5.5% annual rate of reduction required, according to the United Nations' The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010, to reach MDG 5.


ActionAid, Hit or miss? Women’s rights and the Millennium Development Goals, edited by Angela Burton
Population Action International Report
The United Nations Population Fund-UNFPA Report
UNICEF - MDG 5: Maternal health
United Nations, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2010, New York 2010