By Adil Imroz:
The phase of motherhood is one among the most important ones in the life of a woman. Considering the cultural and moral values of India, being a mother is nothing less than something sacred. But when we study the scenario of maternity across India and other developing countries, the picture shapes into a dreadful one.
Thousands of women die needlessly every year due to pregnancy or due to child-birth related problems. Every year, about 78,000 mothers die in childbirth and from complications of pregnancy in India, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). More than 60 percent of pregnant women suffer from obstetric morbidity. Reports from Human Rights Watch say that the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of India is 16 times higher than Russia and 10 times higher than China. One out of every 70 Indian women who reach reproductive age dies because of pregnancy, child-birth or unsafe abortions. The condition is worst in the states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, West-Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Though the MMR has seen some fractional downfall in past 10 years, but still for an emerging global economic power famous for its medical prowess, India continues to have unacceptably high maternal mortality level. Improving maternal mortality has received recognition as a global priority as evident by its inclusion in the Millennium Development Goals (United Nations, 2004). India’s Millennium Development Goals calls for a reduction of mortality rate to 109 by 2015, but standing at 450 per 100,000 live births we’re far. By comparison, fellow Asian giant China’s mortality rate has dropped to below 50.
The causes for such plight of women, especially in rural India, are numerous. Hospitals and health-workers dodging responsibilities, lack of basic and hygienic facilities in the health centers, poor transportation facilities, caste discrimination and lack of accountability over maternal mortality with government officials are among the few. Many times the women are diagnosed of the complications very late either due to lack of medical facilities or due to irresponsible behaviour on the part of health-workers and doctors.
UNICEF’s 2009 State of the World’s Children report, which was released in January, said India’s fight to lower maternal mortality rate is failing due to growing social inequalities and shortages in primary healthcare facilities. Millions of births are not attended by doctors, nurses or trained midwives, despite India’s booming economy which grew at nearly 9 percent in each of the past three years. Around two-thirds of Indian women still deliver babies at home. Women from the lower castes suffer the most as they are often denied access to basic healthcare.
Government spends crores of rupees in health care programmes such as Janani Suraksha Yojna. The pre and postnatal care are supposed to be free for the women. But still people from rural India spend $10 for delivering in some clinic, $1 to cut the umbilical cord and $1 for the delivery room cleaners. The figures may seem of no importance to me and you, but I think everyone of us can imagine the plight of a man who supports his family in less than $2 a day. Above all, even after paying the money, in several cases the mother ends up having complications, problems or in extreme cases she dies.
On one hand we boast of our ever expanding global domain in medical science and on the other hand millions of Indian women are suffering from obstetric morbidity. On one side we have patients from across the globe coming for treatment and on the other hand still today Indian mothers are forced to deliver babies in extremely unhygienic condition. A large stake of blame may fall on the government which spends a mere 0.9 percent of G.D.P in health care. Only 4 out of 176 countries of world do worse than this. In Uttar Pradesh only 1 out of 100 community health centers or government run clinics have storage facilities for blood. In rural areas the health centers and government hospitals are so ill-equipped that even a minor complication requires transporting the mother more then 100 km over bad roads to larger hospitals.
Though the 108 service provides some relief but it is yet to reach the majority of places. To add to the woes of Indian women, if she belongs to a lower caste then we have such ‘elite’ class doctors who refuse to attend them. One study in 6 north states revealed that 61 percent of maternal deaths in India occur among the ‘Dalits’.
According to Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Socities of India (FOGSI), more than 90 percent of maternal deaths are preventable. It is an embarrassing irony that on one side we are working so hard in the economical and defense areas but when the medical and health care is concerned we are so backward. Its high time that now we should work for the health sector especially for the women and ensure them a safe motherhood. Indian government should increase the expenditure on the healthcare; after all, a nation stands on the wellbeing of its citizen.
Subsidies should be increased to the private medical organizations so that even poor class of the society can enjoy the safe and hygienic facilities. Health centers should be monitored in their functioning and anyone found dodging the responsibilities should be dealt strictly. Those doctors who deny medical help on basis of caste should be punished and stripped off the noble profession. These steps, if taken, will surely ensure a safe motherhood to the women. After all, in a family, success cannot be achieved without the contribution of women, and to have their contribution we need to ensure their well-being desperately.