Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa)


Background: Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 calls for a reduction of 75% in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) between 1990 and 2015. We estimated levels and trends in maternal mortality for 183 countries to assess progress made. Based on MMR estimates for 2015, we constructed scenario-based projections to highlight the accelerations needed to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) global target of less than 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births globally by 2030.

Methods: We updated the open access UN Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-agency Group (MMEIG) database. Based upon nationally-representative data for 171 countries, we generated estimates of maternal mortality and related indicators with uncertainty intervals using a Bayesian model, which extends and refines the previous UN MMEIG estimation approach. The model combines the rate of change implied by a multilevel regression model with a time series model to capture data-driven changes in country-specific MMRs, and includes a data model to adjust for systematic and random errors associated with different data sources. Results—The global MMR declined from 385 deaths per 100,000 live births (80% uncertainty interval ranges from 359 to 427) in 1990 to 216 (207 to 249) in 2015, corresponding to a relative decline of 43.9% (34.0 to 48.7) during the 25-year period, with 303,000 (291,000 to 349,000) maternal deaths globally in 2015. Regional progress in reducing the MMR since 1990 ranged from an annual rate of reduction of 1.8% (0 to 3.1) in the Caribbean to 5.0% (4.0 to 6.0) for Eastern Asia. Regional MMRs for 2015 range from 12 (11 to 14) for developed regions to 546 (511 to 652) for sub-Saharan Africa. Accelerated progress will be needed to achieve the SDG goal; countries will need to reduce their MMRs at an annual rate of reduction of at least 7.5%.

Interpretation: Despite global progress in reducing maternal mortality, immediate action is required to begin making progress towards the ambitious SDG 2030 target, and ultimately eliminating preventable maternal mortality. While the rates of reduction that are required to achieve country-specific SDG targets are ambitious for the great majority of high mortality countries, the experience and rates of change between 2000 and 2010 in selected countries–those with concerted efforts to reduce the MMR- provide inspiration as well as guidance on how to accomplish the acceleration necessary to substantially reduce preventable maternal deaths.

Funding: Funding from grant R-155-000-146-112 from the National University of Singapore supported the research by LA and SZ. AG is the recipient of a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, grant # T32-HD007275. Funding also provided by USAID and HRP (the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction).