Maternal mortality ratio falling too slowly to meet goal.

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Figures released in October 2007 by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank show that the world's maternal mortality ratio (MMR)--deaths per 100 000 live births--is declining too slowly to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, which aims to reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth by three-quarters by 2015.

The annual decline is less than 1%, while an annual decline of 5.5% between 1990 and 2015 is required to achieve MDG 5. In 2005, 536,000 women died of maternal causes, compared to 576,000 in 1990.

The MMR was highest in developing regions, with 450 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, in stark contrast to nine in developed regions. Moreover, the small drop in the global MMR reflects mainly the declines in countries with relatively low levels of maternal mortality. Countries with the highest initial levels of mortality have made virtually no progress over the past 15 years.

The new maternal mortality estimates show that while gains are being made in middle-income countries, the annual decline between 1990 and 2005 in...

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