India has highest number of maternal deaths

Mortality rate is declining but not enough to meet Millennium Development Goal.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Published:May 7, 2014 12:31 am

India accounts for the maximum number of maternal deaths in the world — 17 per cent or nearly 50,000 of the 2.89 lakh women who died as a result of complications due to pregnancy or childbearing in 2013. Nigeria is second with nearly 40,000, stated the UN report on maternal deaths released on Tuesday.

In contrast, China — with the largest population in the world — reported 5,900 maternal deaths in 2013 mainly due to its “one-child policy”, the report added.

According to the UN report, maternal deaths have witnessed 45 per cent drop globally since 1990 — from 5.2 lakh in 1990 to 2.89 lakh in 2013. Only Sub-Saharan Africa region poses a high risk with 1.79 lakh maternal deaths in 2013, followed by Chad and Somalia.

Despite India progressing noticeably in curbing the maternal mortality rate (MMR) — 65 per cent drop reported since 1990 — the country is lagging behind the UN-mandated Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of bringing a 75 per cent decline in the MMR till 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that India’s MMR, which was 560 in 1990, reduced to 178 in 2010-2012. However, as per the MDG mandate, India needs to reduce its MMR further down to 103. Though India’s MMR is reducing at an average of 4.5 per cent annually, it has to bring down the MMR at the annual rate of 5.5% to meet the Millennium Development Goal.

“Literacy and social issues are major factors that have led to high maternal deaths. Girls are married at a young age and they have little knowledge about early pregnancy,” said eminent gynaecologist Dr Nandita Palshetkar.

As per the report, there were 320 AIDS-related indirect maternal deaths in India in 2013. “I believe postpartum hemorrhage (loss of blood after delivery), malaria and dengue can lead to severe conditions. If diabetes is controlled, it cannot lead to maternal deaths. We have approached the government to fund us so that we can train para-medics about timely treatment,” said Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India.

According to Pandit, the situation is worse in states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and certain belts of Rajasthan. “The overall MMR has declined, but due to few states, we are not able to achieve the two-digit figure in MMR,” she said.

“With National Urban Health Mission, we are hoping that women in slums will receive better healthcare. Also there is Janani Suraksha Yojana under which women are encouraged to visit hospitals to get monetary benefit,” Pandit said.

According to Dr Lale Say of WHO, the major challenge faced by India is lack of accurate information about births and deaths, particularly when women give birth at home.