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Lottery of birth
Lottery of birth

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2 Maternal and infant mortality today

High death rates among women and infants in childbirth run throughout human history.

Gradually, fewer women and babies have died, fewer families have had to cope with such significant losses and fewer children have been traumatised by the loss of a mother or sibling or both. But today, maternal mortality and infant mortality still remain real dangers for many millions of women and their families.

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Figure 2

So, the headlines are that:

  • every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries
  • maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities
  • young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women
  • skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and new-born babies
  • between 1990 and 2013, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%.
(WHO, 2013)

A reduction in maternal mortality was one of the Millennium Development Goals and, as you can see, significant progress was made towards achieving this goal. Re-read the last bullet point again. Surely this is something not widely known, but is something to celebrate?

Despite this reduction in maternal mortality,however, there is still much to do to protect women and children on the most dangerous day of their lives, the day of birth.

The next section provides an overview of global child mortality today and the ongoing battle to address preventable and treatable conditions that still lead to many deaths in childhood.