6 Improve maternal health

Where we are?

 male nusre chatting to pregnant women
Nurse chatting to an expecting mother at a local clinic. Photo - UNDP

The targets for MDG 5 are to: reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio; and achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health. The current data for Namibia (based on 2006/07 NDHS) shows that Namibia has already achieved the target for births to be attended to by skilled health personnel, is on target to reduce the unmet need for family planning to zero, but is unlikely to meet any of the other targets for this goal by 2015, such as 56 maternal deaths for every 100 000 live births, 100 percent contraceptive prevalence, the adolescent birth rate reduced by 100 percent and an antenatal coverage of 100 percent. As with child health, Namibia is committed to reducing child and maternal mortality.

This is evident by the multi-sectoral institutional structures put in place, the Life Saving Skills/EmOC training of trainers, routine maternal death reviews, enhanced referral system, improved infrastructure and procurement of equipment, strengthened adolescent’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improved PMTCT strategies among others. Namibia has developed a ‘road map’ with the aim of expediting achievement of maternal health targets, but needs to overcome the following challenges: shortage of skilled health workers, high attrition, non-availability of essential drugs especially in rural areas, inappropriateness of the health infrastructure to provide required skills, slow implementation of decentralisation, inadequate community outreach, and inefficient record keeping and use of the monitoring and evaluation system. It is essential, therefore, to develop a health professional human resource plan, improve retention of health professionals, accelerate training, build the capacity of all categories of reproductive health service providers, ensure availability and maintenance of essential medicines and equipment, design clinics to cater appropriately for all relevant health needs, speed up decentralisation, and strengthen community mobilisation and monitoring and evaluation.

Status at a glance



Maternal health


Maternal mortality ratio (deaths in 100 000 live births)

225 (1992)

449 (2006/07)


Not on target

Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel (%)

68 (1992)

94.6 (2006/07)



Universal access to reproductive health


Contraceptive prevalence rate (%)

23 (1992)

46.6 (2006/07)


Not on target

Adolescent birth rate reduced by 100%

2 (1992)

15 (2006/07)


Not on target

Antenatal care coverage (at least one visit and at least four visits) (%)

56 (1992)

72 (2006/07)


Not on target

Unmet need for family planning (zero % unmet need)

24 (1992)



On target

Targets for MDG 5
  1. Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
    • Most maternal deaths could be avoided
    • Giving birth is especially risky in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where most women deliver without skilled care
    • The rural-urban gap in skilled care during childbirth has narrowed
  2. Achieve universal access to reproductive health & inadequate funding for family planning is a major failure in fulfilling commitments to improving women’s reproductive health
    • More women are receiving antenatal care
    • Inequalities in care during pregnancy are striking
    • Only one in three rural women in developing regions receive the recommended care during pregnancy
    • Progress has stalled in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, putting more young mothers at risk
    • Poverty and lack of education perpetuate high adolescent birth rates
    • Progress in expanding the use of contraceptives by women has slowed & use of contraception is lowest among the poorest women and those with no education