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India making progress on combating maternal child birth deaths

world Updated: Apr 15, 2010 14:34 IST
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Underling that progress on maternal child birth deaths was not uniform, the chief of the WHO Margaret Chan noted that India was one of the countries that had made notable advancements on the problem.

"The progress is not enough. The progress is fragile" Chan told journalists here. "Some countries are making progress primarily India, China, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia."

"We would like to see progress in more countries," she added.

This week, a British Medical Journal, Lancet reported that the number of women dying in childbirth worldwide had fallen dramatically primarily due to six countries including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

India had the largest number of maternal deaths worldwide in 1980, according to the report. But significant change has been observed -there were 408 to 1,080 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1980. In 2008, there were 154 to 395.

Last year, the UN report presented a far gloomier picture by reporting that around 500,000 women died at child birth.

However, Chan noted that its new report will be out by the middle of the year and it is already reflecting trends similar to the Lancet report.

"The early signal is that the trend is similar to what was being reported in the Lancet article," she said.

Chan was speaking at a press conference where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a call to action to improve reproductive, maternal, and newborn health, and called on civil society, private businesses and governments to make this a priority.

"We are here because too many women die around the world from pregnancy or childbirth-related injuries. We are here because one preventable maternal death is still too many," Ban said. "Hundreds of thousands of deaths are a disgrace, a disgrace we need not tolerate."

Noting that women were the medium for progress in society, Ban pointed out that the least progress had been made in achieving the Millennium Development Goal that dealt with securing maternal health.

"In the poorest societies of the world, it is women who care for the children. They grow the crops, hold societies together. Women deliver - and not just babies. And if we deliver for women, we can change the world for the better," Ban said.

"Yet of all the MDGs – Millennium Development Goals - maternal health has advanced the least, and it is a key to all the rest," he added.

The UN chief underlined that instead of getting countries to give more money for the cause instead the focus should be for governments to fulfill pledges that have already been made.