Iraq making progress on maternal health but still short of development goals, says UN

18 March 2013

Despite sustained progress in reducing maternal deaths in Iraq, concerted efforts are still required to push the country closer to achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on maternal health, says the United Nations health agency.

In a press statement released today, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Iraqi field office reported that in the 20 years spanning 1990 to 2010, the maternal mortality ratio in the country fell by 29 per cent, while the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel rose “considerably” from 50 per cent in 1990 to 88.5 per cent in 2011.

Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, the WHO representative in Iraq, acknowledged that the last two decades had witnessed “slow but sustained progress” for the health of Iraqi mothers. But, at the same time, his office warned that this progress would “still not be enough for Iraq to meet the planned MDG target of reducing the maternal mortality ration by 75 per cent in 2015.”

“Concerted efforts and innovation are still needed to prevent maternal deaths, in order to save a greater number of mothers’ lives, accelerate the pace of reduction of maternal mortality and bring the country closer to the MDG target,” WHO stated in the news release.

The UN agency added that the appropriate allocation of necessary human and financial resources coupled with the creation of a “strong monitoring system to measure progress” would help to achieve the goals.

According to a 2009 study by Iraq’s Ministry of Health and cited by WHO, the leading direct cause of pregnancy-related death in the country was haemorrhaging, with one in four delivering women facing “serious complications during pregnancy and child birth.”

WHO noted that the Ministry of Health, along with other UN partners, had begun to work on improving the accessibility and provision of high quality health services to children and mothers across the country as part of what it called “a key strategy” in addressing the continuing problem.