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Half as many women die during pregnancy, childbirth as in 1990

Worldwide, maternal mortality has been cut in half in the past 20 years, says a new UN-World Bank report. India and Nigeria accounted for about one-third of the 287,000 deaths in 2010 attributed to problems during pregnancy or childbirth.

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Nurses in the Hello Kitty-designed maternity ward, at the Hau Sheng hospital, checks on the newborns, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, in the southern Taiwan city of Chunghua. Hau Sheng Hospital, located 95 miles (150 kilometers) south of Taipei, is the latest destination for the cute feline with the penchant for pink, reflecting its owner's belief that mothers and their newborns will be soothed by the well-known Hello Kitty ambiance. (AP Photo/)

Wally Santana/AP

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Maternal mortality across the globe has been cut nearly in half over the past two decades – that’s the good news.

But before anyone cries victory, here’s the sobering reality: Every two minutes somewhere on Earth, a woman still dies due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth.

That glass-half-full-or-half-empty picture emerges from a new report issued Wednesday by the United Nations and the World Bank. The report finds that 287,000 women died in pregnancy in 2010 – a staggering number that still comes off as progress when compared with the 543,000 women who died in pregnancy in 1990.

The analysis of maternal health over the past two decades found the most progress in East Asia, with India and sub-Saharan Africa pulling up the rear.

The United States failed to rank in the top third of countries with the lowest rates of maternal mortality and actually slid farther behind other developed countries, ranking closer to Russia and countries of Central America, South America, and North Africa. The US counted 880 maternal deaths in 2010, which on a per capita basis was higher than in 1990.

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