Maternal health: Despite progress, India has highest number of deaths

Zee Media Bureau

United Nations: Healthcare system in India seems to be improving in the last ten years as far as maternal deaths are concerned. According to a report released by the United Nations (UN), the country has witnessed a decline in maternity mortality rates between 1990 and 2013.

The UN report revealed a significant drop of 45% in maternal deaths globally since 1990, from 5.2 lakh in 1990 to 2.89 lakh in 2013.

Although, India has made great progress in curbing maternal mortality rate (MMR), 65% drop reported since 1990, it still accounts for the maximum count of maternal deaths in the world.

At the country level, the two countries that accounted for one third of all global maternal deaths in 2013 are India at 17 per cent with 50,000 maternal deaths and Nigeria at 14 per cent with 40,000 deaths.

According to the report, the sub-Saharan Africa region alone accounted for 62% (179,000) of global deaths followed by Southern Asia at 24%.

India was among the 10 countries that comprised 58% of the global maternal deaths reported in 2013. 

India's maternal mortality rate fell from 560 in 1990 to 190 in 2013, a 65% drop, as per the report.

The report also shows 11 countries that had high levels of maternal mortality in 1990, have reached the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of a 75% reduction.

These include Bhutan, Cambodia, Cabo Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Maldives, Nepal, Romania, Rwanda, and Timor-Leste.

“A 15-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa faces about 1 in 40 chances of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

“A girl of the same age living in Europe has a lifetime risk of 1 in 3,300, underscoring how uneven progress has been around the world,” she added.

Meanwhile, more than one in four maternal deaths are caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, malaria and obesity, whose health impacts can be aggravated by pregnancy, according to a second WHO study.

The report highlights the need to invest in proven solutions such as quality care for all women during pregnancy and childbirth and particular care for pregnant women with existing medical conditions, Assistant Director-General for WHO's Family, Women's and Children's Health Flavia Bustreo said.

Maternal mortality rate (MMR) is the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth, per 100,000 live births.

With PTI Inputs