Millennium Development Goals

Goal 5

Improve Maternal Health by 2015

Q: How can improved maternal health reduce poverty?
A: Investing in better maternal health not only improves a mother’s health and that of her family, but also increases the number of women in the workforce and promotes the economic well-being of communities and countries. Untreated pregnancy and birth complications mean that 10-20 million women become disabled every year, undermining their ability to support their families.

World Bank: We Need to Do More to Help Women

Globally, maternal deaths dropped 45% between 1990 and 2013. While substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will fail to reach the Goal 5 target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% from 1990 to 2015. In fact, of all the MDGs, the least progress has been made toward the maternal health goal. Every day, nearly 800 women across the globe die due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries. Many low-income countries have high rates of maternal mortality and high fertility, which are closely linked to high infant mortality and gender inequality. More than a quarter of girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa cannot access family planning services, fueling unplanned pregnancies and spreading HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Better women’s health is therefore a priority. World Bank Group projects allow women wider access to effective and functioning health systems, with skilled and motivated health workers. Bank investments also support infrastructure and innovations in financing to improve maternal health. Through such investments, the Bank continues to support reproductive health and family planning programs, nutrition initiatives, facility-based deliveries, disease prevention, and new and innovative methods to provide more help to mothers.

Healthier mothers mean healthier children (Indonesia). Healthier mothers mean healthier children (Indonesia).
We promote the health of women by:
educating girls and boys
reducing teenage pregnancies
empowering women to space births and choose family size
improving maternal nutrition
ensuring trained attendance at deliveries and better access to emergency and comprehensive obstetric, ante-natal and post-partum care

Making Strides in Maternal Health

As a result of support for the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, from 2003 to 2013 more than 117 million people gained access to essential health, nutrition, or maternal and child services.

Our Maternal Heath Strategy

  • Develop more effective and efficient national health systems
  • Motivate young people to delay pregnancy and achieve higher levels of education
  • Support increased use of reproductive health services, focusing on assisted deliveries and family planning
  • Tie financing to performance in maternal health programs
  • Protect poor women from ill health and unaffordable costs and treatment

Some of Our MDG 5 Results

Between 2003 and 2013, more than 117 million people in the poorest countries gained access to essential health services; 195 million pregnant women received antenatal care, and more than 30 million births were attended by skilled health personnel. Countries have also reported impressive results:

  • Burundi: 25% more women gave birth at health facilities in 2011 than in 2010; prenatal consultations rose by 20% during the same period.
  • Guinea: 95% of pregnant women in 2012 received prenatal care from a health care provider, up from 83% in 2011.
  • Lao PDR: 93,000 women received subsidies for prenatal care and hospital delivery, and 536,000 women received free or subsidized health exams between 1997 and 2006.

How’s the World Doing?

  • 800 women die every day due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth.
  • 45% drop in maternal mortality since 1990.
  • 1/2 of women in developing regions receive recommended health care during pregnancy.
  • 15x higher maternal mortality ratio in developing regions, as compared to that of developed regions.


Mother and newborn

New Data Show Meaningful Progress in Reducing Maternal Mortality

The world went from 380 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013.

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Results Profile

An Afghan woman seeking medical help.

Afghanistan: Better Health Outcomes for Women, Children, and the Poor

In a decade of tremendous progress, maternal mortality drops from 1,600 per 100,000 births in 2000 to 327 in 2010.

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World Bank’s Commitment to Maternal Health

  • FY09: World Bank mobilized more than $3 billion in health financing
  • FY10: World Bank committed $4.1 billion in support of stronger health systems, disease prevention, and improving child and maternal health.
  • FY10-15: World Bank Reproductive Health Action Plan helps 57 low-income countries increase access to family planning and skilled attendance at births, train health care workers, and expand girls’ education.


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