Jan 13 2015:Â In 17th century India, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built an immense tomb of white marbleâ€”known as the Taj Mahalâ€”in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died during the birth of their 14th child. The mausoleum, revered for its beauty, also serves as a sad reminder that maternal deaths have forever plagued humanity.
Maternal deaths, today an avoidable tragedy, still occur at relatively high rates in many developing countries, despite a steep reduction in maternal mortality worldwide since 1990. Globally, about 289,000 women died in 2013 from pregnancy or birth-related causes. Only two regions, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, accounted for 85% of global maternal deaths.
South Asia, where 24% of global maternal deaths occurred, is home to 1.6 billion people across eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Data released earlier this year by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank Group show that South Asia significantly reduced its maternal mortality ratio (MMR) per 100,000 live births, from 550 in 1990 to 190 per 100,000 live births in 2013, marking a decline of 65%, equivalent to 4.4% per annum.