Mothers and newborns are no more likely to survive today than two

decades ago, with prospects worst in countries battling AIDS, conflict

and poverty, the World Health Statistics 2009 report showed on Thursday.

Maternal mortality is stuck at what it was in 1990, Ties Boerma,

director of the Wolrd Health Orgnaisation's department of health


The report showed that most maternal deaths occur

in Africa, where the maternal mortality ratio in 2005 was 900 per

100,000 live births compared to 400 per 100,000 globally. That is

little changed since 1990.

Progress in reducing maternal

mortality and morbidity depends on better access to, and use of, good

maternal and reproductive health services, the WHO said.

Earlier this week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said persistent

high death rates from pregnancy and childbirth was an outrage and the

wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there was no excuse

for inaction. [ID:nLJ557840]

Speaking at the WHO's annual

assembly, Sarah Brown said simple measures before, during, and after

delivery could save women's lives.

Although the number of child

deaths had fallen 27 percent globally since 1990, with an estimated 9

million children aged under five dying in 2007, there had been little

improvement in the health of newborns, according to the report.

The countries making least progress were those with high levels of

AIDS, economic hardship and violence, the WHO said. Sierra Leone,

Nigeria and Afghanistan were among the worst for both maternal and

child health, according to the report.

Reducing child

mortality increasingly depends on tackling neonatal mortality; globally

an estimated 37 percent of deaths among children under five occurs in

the first month of life, most in the first week, the WHO said.

Better immunisation coverage, use of oral rehydration therapies during

diarrhoea, access to insecticide-treated mosquito nets and improved

water sanitation had helped improve children's health in many poor


However, because the availability and use of proven

interventions at community level remain low, pneumonia and diarrhoea

still kill 3.8 million children under five each year, the report said.