MDG progress uneven for girls and women

Progress toward the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - particularly those that affect the health and empowerment of girls and women - has been described as "very uneven" by a keynote speaker for the organisation at this year's Women Deliver conference.

Addressing attendees at the event in Kuala Lumpur last week, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Helen Clark said poor women's health and gender inequality "lie at the heart of slow progress on MDG targets".

"That's why they must be focused on and tackled with renewed determination in a reinvigorated global development agenda," she said.

This year's Women Deliver conference, the third such event in six years, was attended by around 4,500 delegates, representing 149 countries and 2,200 organisations.

While global maternal mortality rates have fallen by half since 1990, according to the United Nations Population Fund, some 800 women still die every day due to complications arising during pregnancy and childbirth.

Through MDG 5, the UN aims to reduce maternal mortality rates to one-quarter of 1990 levels by 2015.