Confirming the poor state of health care for pregnant women, the Centre said that a female dies every seven minutes in India because of complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
The number of women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth is 77,000, three times higher than what government proposes as limit, the Registrar-General of India said in a report.
Some 301 women in one lakh births die each year due to “pregnancy-related complications” despite the government’s goal of bringing the mortality rate below 100, said the registrar-general, responsible for recording births and deaths.
Rundown maternity services and near-absent mother-and-childcare centres, and rural health facilities contributed to the huge death rate of mothers, the report said.
The report comes days after ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi said, on International Women’s Day on 8 March, that problems faced by women could not “be seen in isolation and their development is linked to the national economy”.
The report added: “Despite all the maternal health programmes and improvement in primary health care system, very few states are close to this desired figure (of keeping the mortality rate below 100 per one lakh births).”
Union government officials typically point fingers at the state governments for not doing enough to improve maternal health care.
The report said that Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state with 17 crore people, had the highest maternal mortality rate with 517 deaths per one lakh live births.
Kerala came nearest to the national target with a figure of 110 deaths per one lakh live births, the report said.
The mortality rate has actually climbed in many states during the past five years, the report added. In 1999, there were 220 deaths per one lakh live births in Uttar Pradesh—less than half the current rate. Rises were also seen in Tamil Nadu, which has a mortality rate of 134, up from 79 in 1999, and Gujarat with 172, up from 28.
The Centre last month hiked its annual outlay for health by 22% to Rs11.36 lakh crore, with special emphasis on the welfare of children and women as well as on efforts to contain the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“But the cascading effect will be visible only if state governments too hike their respective health budgets,” said Shimoni Sinha, a health expert.