MATERNAL HEALTH IN RURAL INDIA
According to the World Health Organisation, women in poorer countries are 36 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than those in the rich nations. In India, roughly 300 million people are poor and have inadequate medical and health care infrastructure with no or very little access to public health care system. Bihar state is often cited as India’s poorest, and its antenatal health care in particular has been scant; its infant and maternal mortality rate among the worst in the country.
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, India
I witnessed how health for women is being improved across 360 villages in the state. Significant changes have occurred thanks to various training schemes on, for example, safe delivery practices, how to deal with emergency births, as well as vaccinations, and first aid for common diseases and ailments among infants, pregnant and new mothers. This has led to a 40% reduction in infant and maternal mortality rates, a 50% increase in safe deliveries, a 40% increase in immunization, as well as a 45% increase in antenatal and postnatal care.
While in 2000, India spent $1.4 billion a year on counseling mothers on healthy eating and supplementing meals, that figure has now tripled. The result has been positive but more needs to be done. Educating girls educates the entire family, and helps deliver cost effective interventions to address treatment, care and prevention of diseases, and preventable deaths amongst infants, adolescent girls and women of child-bearing age.