New Delhi, July 4: Next time you take a 10-minute coffee break, spare a thought. By the time you come back refreshed, a mother would have died.
India recorded 56,000 maternal deaths in 2010, according to a UN report, which makes it six every hour — or one every 10 minutes.
The report, released in India on July 2, means that despite various schemes launched by the Centre and state governments, the number of deaths during pregnancies and childbirth has not come down as expected.
That isn’t all. India, which accounted for nearly a fifth of all maternal deaths in the world in 2010, had a maternal mortality rate higher than that of Sudan, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.
“It is a matter of shame that India’s MMR is higher than that of even Bangladesh…. Through the right interventions we can save as many as 75 per cent of the women. These deaths are a result of systemic failures. The main reason is the low social status of women,” said Aparajita Gogoi, director, Centre for Education, Development and Population Activities, India.
According to the World Health Organisation, maternal death is the death of a woman during pregnancy or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy.
Gogoi, who is also national co-ordinator for the White Ribbon Alliance in India on Safe Motherhood, said right from the time a girl is born, it’s a story of neglect. “Women get married (off) young, they have no access to family planning methods and no say in reproductive matters. Many women also suffer from anaemia and malnutrition.”
The state with the lowest MMR, or the number of maternal deaths per 1,000 women of reproductive age, is Kerala (81). But India’s best is way below Sri Lanka (35), China (37), Thailand (48) and Brazil (56).
However, all is not lost. The UN report says India has reduced its MMR significantly from 437 per 1 lakh live births in 1999 to 212 now, although it needs to hasten the pace under the National Rural Health Mission to achieve the related Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of 109 MMR.
India has also done better on infant health, and is well within sight of reaching the MDG of reducing infant mortality rate (IMR) to 42 per 1,000 live births. According to estimates, India’s IMR is 47.
India’s progress on combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis is also satisfactory.