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Maternal and infant death figures fudged

IF ONE believes the State Public Health and Family Welfare Department, the maternal and infant death rates in the State have suddenly dropped so drastically that they have probably become one of the lowest in the world and extremely below the national average. The more practical way to look at it ? the department has grossly underreported the death figures.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2006 13:54 IST

IF ONE believes the State Public Health and Family Welfare Department, the maternal and infant death rates in the State have suddenly dropped so drastically that they have probably become one of the lowest in the world and extremely below the national average. The more practical way to look at it — the department has grossly underreported the death figures.

The statistics quoted by the department in its health bulletin (on its official website) for the period of April 2005 to November 2005 shows that during the period, for total of 10,94,432 deliveries (childbirth) - 985 maternal deaths and 19102 infant deaths occurred.

This means that the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) during this period was a mere 90 (per lakh) while the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was only 17.45 (per 1000) as against the officially known MMR and IMR of 498 and 82.

The State is one of the worst performers as far as vital health indices are concerned with one of the highest MMRs (498/lakh) and second highest IMR (82/1000) in the country. The national MMR and IMR are 407 and 60 respectively.

The State Health Department website itself mentions these vital health indices, quoting the Sample Registration Survey (SRS) of the Registrar General of India (RGI). However, the statistics in the latest health bulletin of the department contradicts its own figures.

The Health Department mentions its health indices goals for 2011 as bringing down IMR to 60 and MMR to 220. If the Health Department statistics for the duration of April-November 2005 are believed to be correct, the department has already achieved the goal far beyond expectations.

“This is gross misreporting of facts,’’ Sachin Jain, health activist who has been tracking the health issues — particularly maternal and child health – for several years in the State, said while talking to the Hindustan Times.

“It is unfortunate that the State Government should so drastically misrepresent the facts,’’ he said. He mentioned that already the ground situation is quite bad and there is need for concerted action by the government to improve maternal and infant health.

“Rather than taking some important steps, they are trying to downplay the problem by juggling the statistics,’’ he said.

Going by the average MMR and IMR in the State, at least 22 mothers must have died during childbirth or of related complications, while as many as 367 children must have perished everyday during last eight months. The department’s statistics, however, come nowhere near depicting this deadly picture.

When confronted with the statistic by the Hindustan Times, Principal Secretary of the Public Health and Family Welfare Department M M Upadhayay conceded that the figure seemed discrepant. “I would get it checked on the next working day, that is Thursday,’’ the PS said.

Meanwhile, expressing concern over the high IMR and MMR in the State, Health and Family Welfare Minister Ajay Vishnoi said that efforts are being made to increase public participation to ensure that the benefits of the schemes meant to reduce these rates reach the needy persons.

He also said that steps are being taken to improve the health infrastructure by appointing more doctors and health staff in the government sector. As a special measure, the government is thinking of launching mobile hospitals for the tribal blocks.

Women and Child Development Minister Kusum Singh Mahdele, while saying that the IMR and MMR is mainly concern of the Health Department, conceded that one of the biggest cause for these deaths is severe malnutrition. “But we get only Rs 1.50 per person per day for the nutrition programmes from the Central Government.

Do you think this is enough to combat the situation,’’ the Minister asked, adding that the State Government does not have adequate financial resources itself to increase the its share in these nutrition schemes.

First Published: Jan 11, 2006 13:54 IST