In the last two days, two success stories have been announced in the battle against two major global health challenges — maternal mortality and polio rates have both declined sharply.

The Lancet has reported a significant decrease in maternal mortality due to lower pregnancy rates, higher income, higher education rates, and more “skilled attendants.” The number of women who die every year during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased from 526,300 in 1980 to 342,900 in 2008, though progress in the developing world has been mixed. Six countries — Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and DRC — still account for over half of all maternal deaths worldwide.

The NY Times notes that the report comes as a surprise as common knowledge was that there had been little success toward Millennium Development Goal 5. A 2007 Lancet report estimated 535,900 deaths in 2005. The most recent report used “more sophisticated statistical methods.”

Yesterday The NY Times also noted success in the battle against polio, incidents of which have decreased in two of its last bastions — Pakistan and India.  The Wild Polio Virus infected 123 children last year in Nigeria but only 2 this year, mainly due to Muslims in the north ending their opposition to vaccination campaigns.  And for the first time, the Indian states Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have seen no new cases for four straight months. Overall the WHO is reporting a 75 percent reduction from the same period last year.

*Chart via The NY Times

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