New Delhi: Around 11 million women in India had their deliveries in hospitals or healthcare institutions last year as a result of a scheme to provide cash incentives for institutional birthing.
Revealing this Wednesday at the Global Health Policy Forum Summit in London, union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said 11 million pregnant women benefited last year compared to only 700,000 during the first year of the National Rural Health Mission in 2005.
Azad said the government, enthused by the "phenomenal progress" of this safe motherhood incentive scheme, launched another major intervention in 2011 to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for both pregnant women and sick neonates.
Among the schemes are providing absolutely free to and fro transport between home and health institution; free diagnostics and tests; free medicines, free food and free caesarean section, if required.
Sick newborns would also be provided the same initiatives up to 30 days after birth.
As a result of the schemes, institutional deliveries have increased from 47 percent in 2007-08 to 60.5 percent in 2010, said a statement.
The ministry has also taken steps to address the reproductive, sexual health and nutritional needs of adolescents as a means to improve maternal and child healthcare, Azad said.
"Under a unique initiative, probably the first of its kind in the world, community health workers are promoting birth spacing through awareness and door to door distribution of contraceptives. The challenge of nutrition is being addressed at the highest levels.
"The Prime Minister`s Nutrition Council is working vigorously on a multi-sectoral plan to improve overall nutritional status of women and children. Our efforts to control anaemia now encompass adolescent boys and girls in addition to children and pregnant and lactating mothers."
The government has also launched a nation-wide programme for weekly iron and folic acid supplements to cover 130 million adolescents.
"Another new initiative is a name, address and telephone-based mother and child tracking system to ensure and monitor timely delivery of full complement of services to pregnant women and children,` the statement said.
He said that as of now, over 43 million pregnant women and children are registered in the web enabled system and are being closely monitored.
Azad said that every year more than 2,80,000 women around the globe die during child birth despite the fact that most of these deaths are preventable with simple and cost effective interventions.
"For India, the challenge is particularly formidable considering that, though we are the second most populous country in the world, we have the largest number of pregnancies at 27 million and an annual birth cohort of 26 million babies".