New Delhi: The progress in reducing deaths during pregnancy, childbirth, and among newborn infants has stalled in the last eight years since 2015, due to decreasing investments in maternal and newborn health, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, “Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth,” released on Tuesday (May 9).
There were a total of 4.5 million deaths globally, of which, maternal deaths accounted for 290,000 stillbirths (babies who die after 28 weeks of pregnancy) accounted for 1.9 million, and newborn deaths accounted for 2.3 million.
According to the WHO, the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty, and worsening humanitarian crises strained already stressed healthcare systems. Besides, funding shortfalls have also contributed.
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Around ten countries have 60 per cent of the global maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths and India is among one of them, followed by Pakistan, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among others.
Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that pregnant women and newborns continue to die at unacceptably high rates worldwide, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created further setbacks in providing them with the healthcare they need.
If we wish to see different results, we must do things differently. More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed now so that every woman and baby, no matter where they live, has the best chance of health and survival.
Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Director of Health, said,
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, babies, children, and women who were already exposed to threats to their well-being, especially those living in fragile countries and emergencies, are facing the heaviest consequences of decreased spending and efforts on providing quality and accessible healthcare.
Here are the key findings of the report for India:
- India accounted for 788,000 of the total maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in 2020
- India has total 17 per cent of the total maternal deaths, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in 2020
- India has 17 per cent of the total live births in the world in 2020
- A total of 24,000 maternal deaths were reported in India in 2020
- A total of 297,000 stillbirths were reported in India in 2020
- Neonatal deaths accounted for 468,000 fatalities in India
But the numbers have imporved in India. The country has shown improvement in the number of maternal mortalities that were reported earlier. The country has seen a decline in the Maternal Mortality Ratio from 130 per lakh live births in 2014-16 to 97 per lakh live births in 2018-20, according to the office of the Registrar General of India.
India’s under 5 mortality rate also significantly declined from 35 per 1,000 live births in 2019 to 32 per 1,000 live births in 2020, according to the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report 2020 released by the Registrar General of India in September 2022.
Dr Gagan Gupta, Senior Advisor, Maternal and Newborn Health at UNICEF, said that the Maternal and newborn deaths have seen a persistent decline in South Asia, including India, amidst their stagnation globally. In India, it is primarily because of the rapid rise in the institutional deliveries, rapid scale-up of newborn care units and several policy changes to improve access of mothers and newborns to quality health services, Dr. Gupta added.
Despite the progress, there is an urgency to increase in the investment in maternal and newborn health for further improvement, Dr. Gupta said.
There is an urgent need to increase the investments to improve the scales of maternal and newborn health as the joint ENAP/EPMM progress report by the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA has shown that 12 per cent of countries have a fully financed maternal and newborn health plan.
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.