WHO Report: Officials Say India's Maternal Mortality Has Decreased

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Health officials here point out that a WHO report - saying India has the highest number of maternal deaths - doesn't paint the correct picture and in terms of per lakh population, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) is actually much lower compared to other nations.

Officials said several schemes to check maternal mortality are working well and the high number of deaths reported - 63,000 in 2008 - were due to a large population and perhaps some "miscalculation".

"India has a high population, so the number of deaths will be high," a senior health ministry official told IANS.

The Trends in Maternal Mortality report released by the WHO, Unicef, UNFPA and the World Bank Sep 15 says India recorded the world's highest number of maternal deaths in 2008 at 63,000, more than countries like Nigeria, Congo, Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

At the same time, India's MMR stood at 230 per one lakh population in 2008, which was 570 in 1990, 390 in 2000 and 280 in 2005, the report pointed out. This is a 59 percent drop in maternal mortality levels.

Pointing this out, the health ministry official said: "The maternal mortality rate (MMR) in Nigeria was 840 per one lakh population, second in the list, and in Congo it was 670, while India has an MMR of only 230."

"Schemes like the Janani Suraksha Yojana are doing well in fighting maternal mortality," he said.

Officials in the women and child development (WCD) ministry feel the data may have been miscalculated.

"A few days ago we had a report from reputed journal Lancet showing India to at the 127th position among 181 countries, above Pakistan and just below Nepal. There may be some flaw with the method of calculation of the compiled data," a WCD ministry officials said.

The international report was released ahead of the all-important millennium development goals (MDG) review summit New York next week.

Agreeing that India may miss the MDG target of reducing the MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births, the officials said it is expected to come down to 135 by 2015.

"We may not achieve the 109 figure, but the MDG is not just about achieving the figure. Even if we achieve 135, it will be good to carry on further," the health ministry official said.

According to the report, India, Nigeria, Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Pakistan, the United Republic of Tanzania, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sudan and Kenya comprised an estimated 65 percent of the global maternal mortality rate.

Globally, the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth fell by 34 percent from 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.



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