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Open Access Open Badges Research article

High maternal mortality estimated by the sisterhood method in a rural area of Mali

Ingvill Aa1, Mari A Grove1, Anita H Haugsjå2 and Sven G Hinderaker3*

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Faculty, University of Bergen, 5020 Bergen, Norway

2 Normisjon, P.b.7153, St.Olav plass, 0130 Oslo, Norway

3 Centre for International Health, Årstadveien 21, University of Bergen, 5020 Bergen, Norway

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2011, 11:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-56

Published: 3 August 2011



Maternal mortality is high in Mali. Nevertheless, there are few studies on this topic from rural areas, and current estimates are mostly based on studies from urban settings. Our objective was to estimate the maternal mortality ratio in Kita, rural Mali.


Using the "sisterhood method", we interviewed participants aged 15-50 years from 20 villages in Kita, Mali, and thereby created a retrospective cohort of their sisters in reproductive age. Based on population and fertility estimates, we calculated the lifetime risk of maternal death, and from that the estimated approximate maternal mortality ratio.


The 2,039 respondents reported 4,628 sisters who had reached reproductive age. Of these 4,628 sisters, almost a third (1,233; 27%) had died, and 429 (9%) had died during pregnancy or childbirth. This corresponded to a lifetime risk of maternal death of 20% and a maternal mortality ratio of 3,131 per 100,000 live births (95% confidence interval 2,967-3,296), with a time reference around 1999.


We found a very high maternal mortality in rural Mali and this highlights the urgent need for obstetric services in the remote rural areas.

maternal mortality; rural; sisterhood method; Mali