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Last update: May 2012

The UN inter-agency maternal mortality estimates 1990-2010

The new UN inter-agency maternal mortality estimates, which include both country and regional trends from 1990 to 2010, were released in May 2012. These estimates replace the previous round of inter-agency estimates and will continue to be used for official UN MDG 5 monitoring and reporting.

Reasons to produce UN inter-agency maternal mortality estimates

Maternal mortality is difficult to measure, and existing data suffer from significant levels of misclassification and under-reporting of maternal deaths. Calculating the maternal mortality ratio requires more information than just knowing that a death occurred; to accurately categorize a death as maternal, information is needed regarding cause of death, pregnancy status, and timing of death in relation to the pregnancy. It is difficult to obtain accurate data on all three of these elements, particularly in settings where substantial proportions of births take place at home. This information may be missing or misclassified not only in developing countries but also in industrialized countries with fully functioning vital registration systems.

The Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group

The 1990-2010 UN inter-agency estimates were produced by the Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group (MMEIG). Assessing the extent of progress towards the MDG 5 target of reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio, between 1990 and 2015, has been a challenge, particularly in developing-country settings where maternal mortality is high.

 

The Maternal Mortality Estimation Interagency Group (MMEIG), composed of WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank together with an independent Technical Advisory Group (TAG), began working together in the mid-1990s with the goal of providing a more accurate assessment of the global maternal mortality burden, as well as comparable estimates across countries. The MMEIG continues to undertake this challenge, revising and improving on previous methods used to estimate maternal mortality. The MMEIG has developed and updated existing maternal mortality estimates using statistical modeling for countries where no reliable data on maternal mortality exist.

 

More information on the new maternal mortality estimates is available in the Questions and Answers document and in the report Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010.