India accounts for 22 per cent of global maternal deaths

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published Published on Nov 25, 2009   modified Modified on Nov 25, 2009

Two thirds of all maternal deaths occur in just 10 countries; India and Niger together account for one third of maternal deaths worldwide. India’s share of global total of maternal deaths is a staggering 22 per cent, according to the UNICEF’s newly released “State of World’s Children 2009.” (See the whole report in the URL below)

India’s dismal record shows its low level of commitment in reducing maternal deaths that are considered to be the best marker of a country’s health system. About 99 per cent of global maternal deaths (5,36,000 in 2005) occurred in the developing countries. According to the report, Africa and Asia account for 95 per cent of maternal and 90 per cent of neonatal deaths.
India’s murky record of poverty, backwardness and child marriages seems to be one of the biggest reasons behind its consistent bad showing. The report says that premature pregnancy and motherhood pose considerable risks to the health of girls. The younger a girl is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the health risks for herself and her baby. Maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are an important cause of mortality for girls aged 15–19 worldwide, accounting for nearly 70,000 deaths each year.

Early marriage and pregnancy, HIV and AIDS, sexual violence and other gender-related abuses also increase the risk that adolescent girls will drop out of school. This, in turn, entrenches the vicious cycle of gender discrimination, poverty and high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality, it further reveals.

Educating girls and young women is one of the most powerful ways of breaking the poverty trap and creating a supportive environment for maternal and newborn health.
Niger has the highest lifetime risk of maternal mortality of any country in the world, 1 in 7. The comparable risk in the developed world is 1 in 8,000. Since 1990, the base year for the Millennium Development Goals, an estimated 10 million women have died from complication related to pregnancy and childbirth, and some 4 million newborns have died each year within the first 28 days of life.

However, despite dismal show, some countries like Niger, Malawi and Bangladesh have made excellent progress over the past few years in reducing the number of deaths

Advances in maternal and neonatal health have not matched those of child survival, which registered a 27 per cent reduction in the global under-five mortality rate between 1990 and 2007, according to the UNICEF report.

As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals draws closer, the challenge for improving maternal and newborn health goes beyond meeting the goals; it lies in preventing needless human tragedy. Success will be measured in terms of lives saved and lives improved.

The divide between industrialized countries and developing regions – particularly the least developed countries – is perhaps greater on maternal mortality than on almost any other issue. This claim is borne out by the numbers: Based on 2005 data, the average lifetime risk of a woman in a least developed country dying from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth is more than 300 times greater than for a woman living in an industrialized country. No other mortality rate is so unequal.

The divide in neonatal deaths between the industrialized countries and developing regions is also wide. Based on 2004 data, a child born in a least developed country is almost 14 times more likely to die during the first 28 days of life than one born in an industrialized country.

Millions of women who survive childbirth suffer from pregnancy related injuries, infections, diseases and disabilities, often with lifelong consequences. The truth is that most of these deaths and conditions are preventable – research has shown that approximately 80 per cent of maternal deaths could be averted if women had access to essential maternity and basic health-care services.

Deaths of newborns in developing countries have also received far too little attention. Almost 40 per cent of under-five deaths – or 3.7 million in 2004, according to the latest World Health Organization estimates – occur in the first 28 days of life. Three quarters of neonatal deaths take place in the first seven days, the early neonatal period; most of these are also preventable.

Please see the links below to know more about the UNICEF report and to access additional information:


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