Arab States Share Lessons in Improving Maternal Heatlh

29 June 2011
Author: UNFPA

RABAT, Morocco --- While high rates of maternal mortality continue to plague some Arab States, Morocco has made remarkable improvements in maternal health. The country is among a small group of low- and middle-income nations on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 5 – to reduce by three quarters the number of women dying during pregnancy and childbirth by 2015. Morocco’s maternal mortality ratio is estimated to be about 112 deaths per 100,000 live births, which represents a decline of nearly 60 per cent since 1990.

This progress, which has come as a result of a concerted government effort to prioritize safe motherhood, was a subject of an international forum on maternal mortality hosted by the Moroccan Ministry of Health in Rabat from 29 June to 1 July. Attended by national and regional health policymakers, UN development agencies, academics, foundations, and medical leaders, the forum focused on Morocco’s successes and challenges in reducing maternal mortality, while also allowing Moroccan leaders to benefit from expert advice as the country looks ahead to its next phase of health policy. 

Moroccan Minister of Health Madame Yasmina Baddou and Mr. Hafedh Cheikh, the Director of the Arab States Regional Office of the UNFPA, opened the forum and welcomed policymakers and health managers from six additional countries in the Arab States region: Djibouti, Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, and Yemen.

In many of these countries, motherhood continues to be life threatening for far too many women. In Sudan, for example, 750 women die per 100,000 live births, and a woman has a one in 32 lifetime risk of dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth.

Morocco serves as an example to other countries in the Arab region and elsewhere of how to successfully change this reality. The Moroccan government’s commitment to safe motherhood is evidenced in its 2008-2012 National Health Plan, which devotes substantial attention and funding to maternal health programs.

Based on evidence of what works from national and international research, the Moroccan government supports comprehensive programmes that include: improving access to health facilities, removing user fees for maternal health services, upgrading facilities, instituting transport and referral systems, improving the supply of essential drugs, and increasing the numbers and skills of doctors and midwives. Moreover, a special commission appointed by the Ministry of Health has spearheaded efforts to improve the country’s health systems to better respond to obstetric and neonatal emergencies.



Population : 36.6 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 64%
Girls 63%

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