5 Countries with Highest Maternal Mortality Ratios


MADISON, Wisconsin — Research shows that approximately 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and that 99 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) represents the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth per 100,000 live births.

There is a significant increase of the maternal mortality ratio in sub-Saharan Africa. The lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 40 in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to only 1 in 3,300 in Europe.

Even though, between 1990 and 2013, the number of maternal deaths worldwide dropped by almost 50 percent, there are still hundreds of thousands of mothers dying every year from poor care before, during and after pregnancy. The most common reasons for death include pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by pregnancy (such as diabetes, malaria, HIV, obesity), severe bleeding, infection, high blood pressure, abortion complications and obstructed labor.

Here are the top 5 countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios and the reasons that they are struggling with reducing deaths.

5. Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan (both 730/100,000)

maternal mortality ratio

In the DRC, “power cuts, outdated equipment, poorly-paid staff and drug shortages in hospitals” have been leading causes of maternal mortality. These, along with a history of “corrupt leadership, very low levels of investment in health,” and the fact that three-fourths of Congolese women lack funds to pay for quality services, has made the DRC one of the most dangerous places to birth a child.

South Sudan had the world’s worst reported maternal mortality rate in 2012 but has gone down a small amount since then. A shocking “90 percent of women give birth away from formal medical facilities” and without professional help, and many maternal deaths are due to “infections (from puerperal fever and retained placenta), haemorrhaging or obstructed births.”

Sources: The GuardianIRIN Africa News

Photo: Shoot the Earth

4. Somalia (850/100,000)

maternal mortality ratio

A large number of mothers in Somalia die due to “prolonged bleeding, pre-eclampsia, hypertension, infection and malnutrition, caused by lack of a balanced diet.” Along with these causes, the country faces a shortage of maternal health centers compared to the population.

Source: IRIN Africa News

Photo: NEISD Newspaper

3. Central African Republic (880/100,000)


For the CAR, the noted “biggest challenge is actually getting women to come to the health facility and use the services.” Experts agree that there needs to be an increase in education about the importance of care during pregnancy and the benefits of giving birth at health facilities. Only 53 percent of births in CAR are currently attended by skilled health professionals. Many mothers are forced to give birth in unsanitary conditions, which can lead to infection and subsequent death during or after childbirth.

Source: All Africa

Photo: Nations Online

2. Chad (980/100,000)

maternal mortality ratio

Hinda Déby Itno, the First Lady of Chad, along with other scholars, attributes the extremely high rates of maternal mortality in Chad to “inequality between the sexes and the denial of women’s sexual rights; poverty and women’s poor access to health care services; the high fertility rate; violence against women in all its forms; young marriages and unwanted pregnancies.” Maternal mortality in Chad is more closely linked to social injustices than the other countries listed because so many women fall victim to sexual violence, leading to unwanted pregnancies.

Source: Open Democracy

Photo: BBC

1. Sierra Leone (1,100/100,000)

maternal mortality ratio

According to Amnesty International report, 1 in 8 women in Sierra Leone risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The high mortality rate has been linked, like in Chad, to the lack of women’s rights in a male-dominated society. Because women are treated as minors under customary law in rural areas, they are denied opportunities to make choices about their health, leading to unnecessary and preventable deaths during or after pregnancy.

Source: BMJ

Photo: Live Wire by Amnesty International

Taylor Prinsen

Sources: Maternal Mortality Data, World Bank Data, WHO, WHO Infographic

Feature Image: Visual.ly


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