The United Nations says maternal and child mortality rates in the Asia-Pacific region are not improving fast enough because of poor access to reproductive health care. U.N. officials say more resources are needed to reach the goal of universal access by 2015.
U.N. officials say some progress has been made toward development goals on women and childbirth in the Asia-Pacific region.
More girls are in school than ever before and family planning education has improved, bringing down fertility rates.
But the U.N.'s top official in the region, Noeleen Heyzer, says maternal and child mortality rates are still too high.
"Maternal health and child mortality are areas where progress has been extremely slow and where urgent action is required and required urgently," Heyzer said. "With more than 300 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, the region accounts for half of the global total."
Heyzer says the largest number of maternal deaths are in South Asia and that poor health care, gender inequality, violence, and poverty are to blame.
Purnima Mane is the deputy director of the United Nations Population Fund. She says the greatest health inequity in the world is maternal mortality.
"Every minute a woman dies giving life," Mane noted. "Virtually all of these deaths are in less developed nations, thus reinforcing inequality and poverty. It also reinforces gender inequalities as the overall burden of ill-health still falls most heavily on women in low and middle-income countries. In fact, inequalities in access to sexual and reproductive health are higher than for almost any other health indicators."
Mane says more resources need to be devoted to reproductive health, particularly to provide skilled care at birth and family planning.
The U.N. officials were speaking in Bangkok at the opening of a two-day forum on accelerating progress on development goals agreed to 15 years ago.
Heyzer told the forum the U.N. would consolidate resources to help ensure that by 2015, the maternal mortality ratio is reduced by three quarters from 1990 levels.
At the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo more than 170 nations agreed they should have universal access to reproductive health care by 2015.
Mane says there is still time to keep the promises made in Cairo, but she says countries have to redouble their efforts.