Maternal mortality falls

ONE of India’s banes was the death of women in childbirth. Such human tragedies could have been prevented to a large extent. What was needed was better pregnancy monitoring and access to safer delivery. Countries with a poor public health infrastructure are more prone to the hazards of childbirth. Lack of nourishment of expectant mothers adds to the problem. In India, over half of married women were found anaemic  in 2006.  But the latest data show that maternal mortality rate has declined to 178 per 100,000 live births from 398 in 2002-04. This is encouraging news though the country is yet far from the millennium development goal of 108. Kerala and Tamil Nadu have fared best. Impressive changes have been recorded in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Assam was at the bottom of the list. But there has been a sharp fall in the maternal mortality rate in that state.
The government is making serious efforts to improve pre-natal care in India. Institutional deliveries are being made more popular, especially in backward states. Poor women are not just unwilling but also unable to afford the cost of travelling to a clinic or a hospital which may be far away. The Janani Suraksha Samiti was launched in April 2005 under the National Relief Health Mission.  Under the programme, incentives are given to poor women to have their babies in hospitals rather than at home. A number of social health workers link villages with government medical centres to help pregnant women avoid the hazards of childbirth. Maternal health is now treated as a priority but there are still miles to go. It is still a problem as to how lack of nutrition for pregnant women can be overcome and health awareness can be spread among them. Gender inequality and abject poverty are stumbling blocks.