India tops global list of maternal deaths: WHO

India tops global list of maternal deaths: WHO

India tops global list of maternal deaths: WHO

With an estimated 50,000 deaths of pregnant women every year, India tops the global chart of countries where maximum number of mothers die every year, overtaking several nations from Asia and Africa.

The data, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) a week before Mother's Day, shows only two countries account for a third of all global maternal deaths: India at 17 per cent (50,000) and Nigeria at 14 per cent (40,000).

Officials in the Union Health Ministry and doctors, however, point out that though thousands of Indian mothers die because of a large population base, the nation has made progress since 1990.

“India will continue to be at the top of the list for several more years because we have almost 3 crore pregnant women each year, the highest in the world. But our MMR (maternal mortality ratio) stands at 178 as against 560 in 1990,” Health Ministry Additional Secretary Anuradha Gupta told Deccan Herald.

MMR is the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Reduction of maternal deaths is one of the targets under the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. Though there has been 45 per cent reduction globally, many countries are still above the danger mark.

While the WHO report takes note of India's progress—65 per cent improvement since 1990—it says 10 nations accounted for 60 per cent of the world's maternal mortality, and India was way ahead of its neighbours Pakistan and China.

“Male domination and mother-in-law's diktat many-a-times influence a girl's decision to go to a healthcare centre or see a doctor,” said Mumbai-based Dr Suchitra Pandit, president of the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India. While institutional deliveries have improved from 47 per cent in 2007-08 to more than 80 per cent in 2013, there are still pockets where mothers are unable to access healthcare services. The government has identified 184 such districts across the country where renewed efforts are being made to bring down MMR further.

“We have already reduced MMR by three-fourths from the 1990-level. Our target is to bring it further down to 100 by 2017,” said Gupta.

Kerala has the lowest MMR of 66, while Assam has the highest of 328. UP is a close second to Assam (292). Only Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra (87) have MMR below 100.

The figures are not that rosy for Karnataka, as it has the highest MMR (144) among the South Indian states, despite recording a fall in 2010-12. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have MMR of 90 and 110, respectively.