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Maternal health in India: Betting big on midwives, ANMs

Apr 13, 2015

According to a top Indian health official citizen participation is the key to reducing maternal mortality rate in the country.

New Delhi: About 44,000 women die in India during pregnancy and childbirth annually. The official statistics reveal India’s Maternal Mortality Rate to be 167 per 100,000 live births.

To capture attention on this grave issue on the occasion of National Safe Motherhood Day, ‘The White Ribbon Alliance’ in collaboration with civil society and other partners organised a campaign based on the theme of ‘Nothing about Us, Without Us’ to garner attention and trigger participation of civil society for addressing the issue of maternal mortality.

Rakesh Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, concurred that new born mortality rate is a huge problem in the country. He highlighted that pneumonia and diarrhoea poses one of the biggest threats to infant survival rate.

Talking about India’s progress on the dual front of maternal mortality and infant mortality in light of the SDGs, Kumar said, “India has been able to bridge the gap vis-a-vis the global average.”

Highlighting the role of midwives and ANMs (frontline health workers), the top health official called for citizen participation which according to him would play a stellar role in achieving the desired plight of maternal wellbeing.

Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, National Foundation of India, said that riding on the upcoming Paris climate deal, and SDGs, the year 2015 is critical for human development as it would decide ‘future’ of the planet.

Firmly supporting the concept of participatory citizen engagement, he said people in India could put pressure on the government and its collective functions.

To emphasise on the role of citizen’s partnership in the area of maternal health, the event witnessed grassroots women leaders like Meera Devi, Panchayat Ward Member from Bihar, and Geeta Regar, a former Sarpanch from Rajasthan shared their first-hand experience of actions taken to cope with maternal mortality.

The women grassroots leaders brought into limelight persisting issues related to maternal health like the dearth of knowledge and problems associated with Anganwadi centres. Nevertheless, despite the challenges they have at their level grappled with the issues by taking small initiatives with big intent, such as team formation.

Geeta also sought support from NGOs and conducted Anganwadi and sub –centre monitoring to effectively find out the loopholes in the local health system. The results of her efforts are also visible in the reduced MMR in her locality.

Experts unanimously called for citizen engagement in line with the objectives of SDGs for effectively leading to enhancement of maternal well being and thereby reduce the MMR.

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