Jan 16, 2009

Health - 78,000 Indian women die in pregnancy, childbirth annually

New Delhi (IANS); As many as 78,000 women die each year in India from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to a UNICEF report released here on Thursday.

This implies that on an average every seven minutes, one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, reports the Unicef State of the World's Children 2009.

The report also highlights that in India, more than two-thirds of all maternal deaths occur in a few states - Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Assam.

"We know what needs to be done to save the lives of the 78,000 women who die in India each year. In addition, about one million neonatal deaths occur here annually," Unicef India representative Karin Hulshof said while releasing the report at the India Habitat Centre.

According to the report, India has managed to cut under-five mortality rate from 117 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 72 in 2007. But there has been little change in the 2001-03 maternal mortality rate of 301 for every 100,000 live births, and the Unicef says there is little chance of reaching the goal of cutting this ratio to 109 by 2015.

There is regional disparity here as well. In Uttar Pradesh, a woman has a one in 42 lifetime risk of maternal death compared with a probability of one in 500 for women in Kerala.

"The health and survival of mothers and their newborns is intrinsically linked. Many of the same interventions that save maternal lives also benefit their infants. Primary healthcare must be made available to all of India's vulnerable women and children so that they can survive and thrive," Hulshof averred.

The report finds that health services are most effective in an environment supportive of women's empowerment, protection and education.

Both mothers and infants are vulnerable in the days and weeks after birth - this is a critical time for life-saving interventions like post-natal visits, proper hygiene and counselling about danger signs of maternal and newborn health, the report points out.

The report raps the state of healthcare services in developing countries saying that 99 percent of global deaths arising from pregnancy and complications occur in the developing world.

"It is a well-known fact that Indian women work endlessly but end up going to sleep on an empty stomach, that is their condition," said Syeda Hameed, a member of the Indian government's Planning Commission, who was also present on the occasion.

"Economic gains cannot be sustained if the well being of women and children, that is two-thirds our population, is not secured," Hameed added.

Also present at the launch was Bollywood actress Raveena Tandon, who has widely endorsed the cause of maternal care in the country.

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