New data on maternal mortality looks like encouraging news but is hardly cause for celebration.
Only 23 nations are on track to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goal on reducing by three-quarters maternal deaths by 2015. Real progress will require tackling discrimination against women, increasing resources to strengthen health systems to ensure universal access to care, including through skilled birth attendants and emergency obstetric care, and expanding access to family planning.
Lack of reproductive choices for women, child marriage, sexual violence, exposure to unsafe abortions and the inability to own property are all linked to slow progress on achieving this and other Millennium Development Goals, commitments governments pledged to meet at the start of this century.
The new evidence is encouraging, but must not be allowed to undermine the urgency of addressing maternal mortality and health as a basic human right.
New York, April 15, 2010
The writer, president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, is a former president of Ireland and United Nations high commissioner for human rights.