Estimating Maternal Mortality in Remote Rural Regions: an Application of the Sisterhood Method in Tajikistan

Kylea Laina Liese, Heather Pauls, Sarah Robinson, Crystal Patil


Introduction: The sisterhood method of maternal mortality data collection and analysis provides a validated framework for estimating maternal mortality ratios in situations of limited infrastructure. The aim of this study is to assess sub-national maternal mortality in the Badakhshan region of Tajikistan using the sisterhood method as part of a larger ethnographic study on maternal risk.

Methods: In 2006-2007, 1004 married women of reproductive age in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Tajikistan were surveyed using the sisterhood method. Respondents were asked eleven questions about the sex, age and survivorship of all children born to the respondent’s mother.

Results: Using a national total fertility rate (TFR) estimate of 4.88, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in Tajik Badakhshan was 141 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (95% CI 49-235). The lifetime risk of maternal death was 1 in 141 (95% CI 34-103).

Conclusion: Given the inherent time-lag of the sisterhood method, precise estimates of maternal mortality are dependent on accurate TFRs, which may vary based upon regional experiences of demographic transitions. Socio-political instability and the dismantling of Soviet welfare programs and civil war following Tajikistan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 likely impacted TFR in Tajik Badakhshan. Socio-political trends influencing TFR in rural regions compared to urban, and the investigation of factors associated with maternal mortality, require additional investigation.


Maternal Mortality, Sisterhood Method, Tajikistan, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast

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