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Rights Group Highlights Maternal Health Issues In India

“India is falling behind other countries in meeting international commitments to improve obstetric care because it does not adequately monitor deaths and injuries in the critical period following childbirth and fix gaps in its health system and programmes,” Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, the Hindu reports.

Though the Indian “government counts the number of births in health clinics and hospitals,” it does not track women after they have delivered, “especially in the 24-72 critical hours after childbirth, when the chances of their death are the highest,” according to the organization. Also, because health facilities are often under-resourced, women can die or experience significant injuries (Dhar, 11/6).   

Aruna Kashyap, a researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division, said, “India should be a leader in protecting and monitoring women’s sexual and reproductive health. Yet women continue to die entirely preventable deaths, and health authorities do not track down the reasons or do what is needed to rectify the health system,” All Headline News reports.  

Puja Marwaha, director of the group Child Rights and You, said India’s high maternal mortality rate is the result of “poor investment in rural or health care infrastructure. … What we need to do is a combination of investment in rural health care from public resources and a drive to root out practices that endanger a mother’s health, such as child marriages.”

In India, there are almost 78,000 cases of maternal mortality each year, according to UNICEF (Bhowmick, 11/5).

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said, “The Indian government should change its approach to monitoring and examine whether women with pregnancy-related complications are in fact getting the kind of treatment they need and whether they are surviving childbirth in the postpartum period.” It pointed out that a new government health information system has the potential to monitor some of these issues, “but it remains to be seen whether this data will be consistently collected and utilized for maternal health care programming at district and state levels” (11/4).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.