Finally We Have Good News in the Health Department. India’s Maternal Deaths Have Gone Down


Finally We Have Good News in the Health Department. India’s Maternal Deaths Have Gone Down

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

As India becomes the third worst-hit country by Covid-19 cases, there is a small glimmer of hope. According to the Sample Registration System’s (SRS) estimate released by the Registrar General of India on Thursday, India’s maternal mortality ratio has dropped by an excellent 7.4 per cent in 2016-18. In 2015-17, the figure stood at 122; in 2016-18, it dropped down to 113.

Maternal mortality ratio is defined as the number of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births. It is used as a human development index to indicate the level of access young mothers have to healthcare.

However, India still has some way to go before attaining the World Health Organisation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The website states that the aim is to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births” by 2030.

The state-wise break-up of maternal mortality rate seems unsurprising: Kerala came out tops with a MMR of 43 (even though the figure has gone up since the last assessment). Maharashtra was a close second with 46, while Tamil Nadu scored a distant 60. Along with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the five states are the only ones – of 28 states and 8 Union Territories – to achieve the WHO’s goal.

The states bringing up the rear are Assam (215) and Bihar (149), as well as Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.

Still, for some organisations, involved with poverty alleviation and educating the girl child, the reduction in maternal mortality ratio came as a breath of fresh air.

Some took it as an opportunity to berate Himanta Biswa Sarma, health minister of Assam, the state with the highest maternal mortality ratio.

Everyone knows that the road is a long one. To be able to reduce India’s maternal mortality ratio, we have to look at whether India is safe for childbirth, and how to mitigate the risks posed by

However, a sobering Guardian report from a few days ago pointed out toward a surge in unsafe abortions thanks to Covid-19. The abortions are one of the drivers of maternal mortality ratio.

“The coronavirus pandemic,” states the report, “has put huge strain on India’s health system, and women’s reproductive rights have taken a particular hit. Travel restrictions, the diversion of public healthcare towards Covid-19, the closure of private clinics and disruptions in medical supply chains have meant that women have been unable to receive timely care… Unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal deaths in India.”

Another report points out that the large-scale disruption of essential services might undo the gains of two decades, and “leave more than 4 million women without access to facility-based deliveries”. “As a result of disruptions in essential services, child mortality in India could increase by 40 per cent and maternal mortality by 52 per cent over the next year.”

Hopefully, the pandemic hasn’t set us back too much. For now, the dip in MMR is reason to cheer.