The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia lends steam to women's health

New Delhi, April 9: Sonia Gandhi today said health must be brought to the 'centre of political discourse' and that Congress workers would spread awareness across villages and small towns.

Delivering the keynote address at the closing ceremony of a three-day international meeting on the health of mothers, newborns and children, the Congress chief said social mobilisation and greater public awareness of the need to protect the health of the mother and child was a must to improve the lives of people.

'This mobilisation must be done by our own cadre and party workers,' Sonia said, as her audience ' comprising mainly UN dignitaries and health officials and workers ' burst into applause.

The Congress leader said the subject is close to her heart and has been accorded the highest priority by the UPA government, which is committed to improving the quality of life of India's poor.

The government, she said, believes the country's development is directly proportional to improvement in the quality of life of its citizens. The government is spending a lot more on sectors like education, health, clean water and sanitation, Sonia pointed out. 'This is our basic approach and you can see this in this year's budget.'

She admitted, however, that it is not enough to allocate more money in a year. The practice must continue and the funds used to build the infrastructure necessary to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people, Sonia added.

The other important issue, she said, is the need to increase the efficiency of the delivery system, otherwise most people will be deprived of the money. To this end, Sonia said, panchayats should be given more responsibility.

Sonia then turned her focus to the girl child, saying she needs to be nurtured and a sustained campaign must be carried out to influence people's mindset to check infanticide.

She said the government alone cannot make much of a difference and called for a collective effort to carry forward the vision of better health, not just for the mother and child, but for everyone.

Sonia was presented the Delhi Declaration by participants at the conference. The declaration underlines the need to take an integrated approach to reproductive health and ensure continued care, right from pregnancy to childbirth.

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