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Maternal mortality on decline, says The Lancet report

Though a latest report on maternal mortality published in British medical journal ‘The Lancet’ has given enough reasons to women healthcare activists to feel proud of their efforts, it has forced UN and WHO officials to have a re-look at their claims of more women dying during childbirth than before.

The Lancet report said that maternal deaths had fallen from 526,300 in 1980 to 342,900 in 2008. Without HIV, annual maternal deaths would have been 281,500 in 2008, the report said.

It implies that the number of women around the world that die each year due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has dropped by 35 per cent over the last 30 years.

The report informs that more than half of maternal deaths take place in six countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest rates of pregnancy-related death in the world, and in some countries the numbers are rising.

The main reasons cited by the Lancet report for the improvement in mortality rates include lower pregnancy rates in some countries; higher income, which improves nutrition and access to health care; more education for women; and the increasing availability of people with some medical training to help women give birth.

Improvements in large countries like India and China also helped to reduce the overall death rates.

The Lancet report has come as a surprise for many, as experts have long claimed that little progress has been made in maternal health intervention.

The Lancet findings contradict a recent report by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, a global alliance under the World Health Organization (WHO) umbrella, which claimed progress in maternal health was not significant.

The WHO report estimated that up to 500,000 women die in childbirth each year, while 3.6 million newborns do not survive their first month and an additional 5.2 million children die before their fifth birthday.

The study in the Lancet was based on more data than was previously available in addition to statistical modelling and was paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

While poverty plays a major role, the report also points to a number of other reasons for high maternal and infant mortality rates in some countries.

The bulk of these deaths could be prevented with maternal care programs and better hygiene practices, the report said.

United Nations Secretary- general Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Lancet study.
"The more information the better," Ban told reporters. "We welcome it."

Richard Horton, editor of the British medical journal Lancet, commented in a short piece accompanying the study that he was pressured to hold back the new findings because of the "potential political damage to maternal advocacy campaigns."

Ban disagreed that the new findings would hamper the global campaign to reduce deaths in childbirths, and said he was glad the report was released on time.

"There should not be any misunderstandings," he said. "No woman should die bringing life into the world," Ban said.

The UN is hosting a conference on maternal and child health in New York, followed by another one in Washington in June.

The MDGs aim to reduce maternal and child mortality by 75 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively, by 2015.

Source: Various Agencies

Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note

 Other Articles by d-sector Team in
Human Development  > Health > Women Healthcare

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Friday, April 15, 2011

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Changes sought in British abortion law
Thursday, January 13, 2011

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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