12/30/2005, 00.00
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Indian women ask government for greater commitment in the fight against maternal mortality

Policy-makers and women from poorest regions met yesterday. India has the highest maternal mortality rate in South Asia: 136,000 women die each year of easily preventable causes

New Delhi (AsiaNews/CBCI) – Indian women ask as one voice that mothers' health be included as a priority on the country's political agenda. Yesterday, women from different parts of rural India met the Planning Commission, donors and the Union (Federal) Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to urge policy makers to prioritise the serious issue of maternal health.

The Constitution might guarantee the right to life, including the right to health, but India has the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in South Asia. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), each year an estimated 136,000 women die needlessly due to causes related to pregnancy, childbirth and abortion.

India's estimated MMR is 540 deaths per 100,000 live births. In Uttar Pradesh alone, this means close to 40,000 maternal deaths per year, followed by Orissa and Rajasthan.

The main causes of death are haemorrhage, generalised infections, dangerous abortions and difficult labour (requiring hospitalisation). In most cases, adequate medical care and health facilities could do away with these problems.

Improvements in medical and obstetrical care have occurred this year, according to the WHO; unfortunately, many women—above all in rural areas far from cities—lack access to life-saving treatments such as antibiotics, surgery and equipped medical facilities.

Poverty, lack of transport, and the indifferent attitude of medical practitioners have all contributed to India's high MMR, this according to Women Health Rights Advocacy Partnership (WHARP), a South Asian forum.

Equally alarming are the estimates of women who survive labour or abortion only to be scarred—between 4 and 5 million of them suffer ill health due to childbearing complications.

Overall, WHO figures indicate that every year about half a million women die of complications from childbearing or labour. Abortion represents 13 per cent of all cases.

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