By Sydney Kornegay

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) received their 20-year old check-up at the MDG summit in September. The diagnosis? While some of the goals are on track for completion by 2015, others- like reducing maternal mortality- have experienced only patchy progress. The poorest and most vulnerable communities continue to suffer, and have unequal access to basic human services. These trends are particularly true for women.

According to a UNICEF report of the conference, 1,000 women still die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, mostly in Sub-Sahara and South East Asia. That’s one woman every minute. And while that number represents a one-third reduction in the maternal mortality ratio since 1990, it’s not fast enough to satisfy MDG 5. This goal calls for a three fourths reduction in the maternal mortality ratio and universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.

“MDG 5 is not on track for success, based on current trends. An orchestrated global effort will be needed to achieve it.”

“By focusing our efforts on scaling up practical interventions that reach the poorest and most marginalized women, we can reach MDG 5 more quickly, more cost-effectively and more equitably.”

These cost-effective, equitable solutions are already being implemented in several countries.

Take Brazil: In 1996, just over 70% of poor mothers received skilled care during childbirth. According to a recent report by World Health Organization and UNICEF, coverage of skilled birth attendance became almost universal in the country, by 2007, even amongst the poorest.[1] Brazil has focused on sending health teams of doctors, nurses, and community health workers to the most geographically isolated, poorest regions of the country. In addition, as part of a nation-wide, tax-based unified health system, citizens can access health care without any user fees.[i] These steps and others have extended health care to women and others in poor, rural areas, decreasing the inequities in the health care system and thus coming closer to achieving MDG 5.

So while the goal of reducing maternal mortality by three-fourths worldwide may not be on- track for 2015, the solutions are out there, and the change is possible. These solutions are crucial to not only achieving progress, but fighting for the equality and rights of half of the world’s population- women.

[1] World Health Organization & UNICEF. 2010. Countdown to 2015 decade report (2000–2010): taking stock of maternal, newborn and child survival: 40