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Maternal mortality in Iraq

I think that I have seen claims that one in three Iraqi mothers die in
child birth (I qualify my comments as the CASI website is temporarily
down so I cannot check the discussion list archive).  This claim is an
incorrect reading of the finding in the Unicef Child and Maternal
Mortality Survey 1999: Preliminary Report, released last month.

What the survey actually claims is that the maternal mortality ratio (MMR)
is 294 / 100,000: for every 100,000 Iraqi children born, 294 mothers die.
Note that, as the MMR is defined as:

        Annual number of deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000
        live births. (Unicef website)

the 294 mothers who die do not necessarily die while giving birth to any
of the 100,000 live births.

According to the WHO website, the average MMR of all member states in 1990
was 430; for Africa it was 940; for Iraq (1990) it was 310.  I therefore
am confused by these numbers and would appreciate any insight that could
be shed upon them.

A final note: that 1 / 3 figure that is often quoted is, I think, a
misinterpretation of the Unicef report's claim that

        the proportion of maternal deaths (31 percent) shows that maternal
        mortality is a leading cause of deaths in the last ten years among
        women of reproductive age.

This means that one third of the deaths of women in Iraq between the ages
of 15 - 49 over the past decade are attributable to pregnancy-related

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (or)

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