Objective: This paper examines the availability of basic and comprehensive emergency obstetric care (EmOC), interventions used to treat direct obstetric complications. Determining what interventions are provided in health facilities is the first priority in analyzing a country's capabilities to treat obstetric emergencies. There are eight key interventions, six constitute basic EmOC and all eight comprehensive EmOC.
Methods and results: Based on data from 24 needs assessments, the following global patterns emerge: comprehensive EmOC facilities are usually available to meet the recommended minimum number for the size of the population, basic EmOC facilities are consistently not available in sufficient numbers, both in countries with high and moderate levels of maternal mortality, and the majority of facilities offering maternity services provide only some interventions indicating an unrealized potential.
Conclusion: Upgrading maternities, health centers and hospitals to at least basic EmOC status would be a major contributing step towards maternal mortality reduction in resource-poor countries.