Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Towards elimination of maternal deaths: maternal deaths surveillance and response

Sennen Hounton1*, Luc De Bernis1, Julia Hussein2, Wendy J Graham2, Isabella Danel3, Peter Byass4 and Elizabeth M Mason5

Author Affiliations

1 UNFPA Technical Division, New York, USA

2 Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK

3 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA

4 Umea University, Umea, Sweden

5 WHO, Geneva, Switzerland

For all author emails, please log on.

Reproductive Health 2013, 10:1  doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-1

Published: 2 January 2013


Current methods for estimating maternal mortality lack precision, and are not suitable for monitoring progress in the short run. In addition, national maternal mortality ratios (MMRs) alone do not provide useful information on where the greatest burden of mortality is located, who is concerned, what are the causes, and more importantly what sub-national variations occur. This paper discusses a maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR) system. MDSR systems are not yet established in most countries and have potential added value for policy making and accountability and can build on existing efforts to conduct maternal death reviews, verbal autopsies and confidential enquiries. Accountability at national and sub-national levels cannot rely on global, regional and national retrospective estimates periodically generated from academia or United Nations organizations but on routine counting, investigation, sub national data analysis, long term investments in vital registration and national health information systems. Establishing effective maternal death surveillance and response will help achieve MDG 5, improve quality of maternity care and eliminate maternal mortality (MMR ≤ 30 per 100,000 by 2030).