MDG 5, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND MATERNAL HEALTH IN AFRICA
Development Goals4 adopted at the Millennium Summit of the United
Nations (UN) in 2000.5 MDG 5 is a compact amongst world leaders to
improve global maternal health by reaching dual specific targets: reduce the
maternal mortality ratio (MMR) 6 in each country by seventy-five percent
between 1990 and 2015, 7 and achieve universal access to reproductive
health services (health care during pregnancy) by 2015.8 Country progress,
or lack thereof, toward these targets is measured by two crucial indicators,
namely, proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel (SHP) and
the rate of antenatal care coverage. 9
But even before the Millennium Summit and MDG 5, protection of
maternal and reproductive health was a major concern of the international
community. Noting that “[t]he health of mothers and children is a priority
that emerged long before the 1990s,” the World Health Organization
(WHO) explains that “[w]hat is new in the last decade . . . is the global
focus of the MDGs and their insistence on tracking progress in every part of
the world,” a process that took off with much fanfare in 2000.10 More than
half a century ago, the global community decreed that mothers are “entitled
to special care and assistance,” 11 and designated promotion of “maternal
4. The MDGs are derived from the Millennium Declaration of 2000 and consist of eight
goals, which all 191 member States of the United Nations (UN) have undertaken to achieve
by 2015. Four of the MDGs are directly related to health, namely, to: ( i) reduce child
mortality, ( ii) improve maternal health, (iii) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases,
and (iv) eradicate poverty. U.N., Official List of MDG Indicators (Jan. 15, 2008),
http://unstats.un.org/unsd/mdg/Resources/Attach/Indicators/OfficialList2008.pdf. Each of
these MDGs has specific indicators or benchmarks which provide a basis of assessment as to
whether a country is regressing or progressing toward the goals. See Obiajulu Nnamuchi &
Simon Ortuanya, The Human Right to Health in Africa and its Challenges: A Critical
Analysis of Millennium Development Goal 8, 12 AFR. HUM. RTS. L.J. 178, 180 (2012). The
rest of MDGs include to: achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and
empower women; ensure environmental sustainability; and, develop a global partnership for
development. Official List of MDG Indicators, supra.
5. G. A. Res. 53/30, A/RES/53/202 (Feb. 12, 1999).
6. Maternal mortality or maternal death refers to the death of a woman while pregnant or
within forty-two days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the
pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but
not from accidental or incidental causes. See WHO, ICD-10 INTERNATIONAL STATISTICAL
CLASSIFICATION OF DISEASES AND RELATED HEALTH PROBLEMS: TENTH REVISION 98 (2004).
MMR is expressed as the number of deaths per 100,000 live births. Id.
7. WHO, Parliamentarians Take Action for Maternal and Newborn Health and Survival
8. See OFFICIAL LIST OF MDG INDICATORS, supra note 4.
10. WHO, The World Health Report 2005: Make every mother and child count xiii
11. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G. A. Res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at
71 (1948), art. 25( 2).