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BMJ. British Medical Journal. 1996 Feb 17; 312(7028):398.New data produced by the WHO and Unicef demonstrated that maternal mortality has been underestimated by a third, with nearly 80,000 more pregnancy-related deaths than previously reported. About 585,000 maternal deaths occur every year, 99% of them in developing countries. 55% of the deaths occur in Asia, which is responsible for 61% of the world's births, while Africa accounts for 40% of deaths and 20% of the world's births. Developed countries account for only 1% of maternal deaths and 11% of all births. Specific statistical models were used to assess the amount of underreporting that is common in developing countries, but can also occur in developed countries. When a pregnant woman is moved from the obstetrics department because of complications and subsequently dies, the original cause of the complication often is missing from the death certificate. A representative of WHO's maternal health and safe motherhood program remarked that these estimates are a great improvement over previous data. They also should encourage action to expand access to quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth. In North Africa, southern Africa, eastern Asia, Central America, and South America the estimates of maternal mortality were slightly lower than those available from earlier studies. The situation was particularly worrisome in eastern, middle, and western Africa, where the earlier estimates had been underestimated by almost one-third.