Jaipur: Norwegian Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg today launched a joint health programme with India, that will have a special focus on reducing child mortality and maternal mortality rates in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district.
Rajasthan’s scorecard in the area of institutional delivery to women, reduction in infant and maternal mortality ratios, elimination of child marriages and reduction in crude birth rate has been dismal. Health workers in the state and grassroot level NGOs feel that it belies the hope that the State would reach anywhere near the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
The targets set by Vasundhara Raje, chief minister, Rajasthan for the 11th Five Year Plan in her Budget speech in the State Assembly have not focused adequately on the unique challenges that confront the state. A feudal culture, inequitable development and strong prejudices against women/ weaker sections continue to be issues which have impeded the success of any health programme launched by the government.
The report on “Ensuring universal access to health and education” which was released a few months ago pointed out gaps with experts calling for immediate steps to bring about a change that could help the overall health parametres as also enable the State to achieve MDGs by 2015.
The report was prepared in support of the “Nine is mine” campaign, a nationwide initiative through which children have been at the forefront demanding that the Government invest 9% of GDP in public expenditure on health and education, as stated in the National Common Minimum Programme. It pointed out that while the State has set the target to reduce infant mortality ratio by 47.76%, from 67 to 32 per 1,000 by 2012, the MDGs stipulate reduction by two thirds or 66% between 1990 and 2015. Similarly, the maternal mortality ratio that was to be reduced by 33.26% – from 445 to 148 per 1 lakh – is much below the MDGs requiring three quarters or 75% reduction.
Krishna Kumar of Wada Na Todo Abhiyan-Rajasthan said the targets for 100% enrolment of girl child in schools and bringing down crude birth rate to 21 per 1,000 and total fertility rate from 3.2 to 2.1 were ambitious, but the State’s poor track record suggested that achieving them by 2012 or 2015 would be next to impossible.
The State government’s partnering with the Norway government to specifically look at child and maternal mortality could strengthen some of the existing programmes in Bharatpur district. At a function at a primary health centre at Arah village, Stoltenberg announced that his country would provide a grant of Rs400 crore for the very project which will be implemented in Alwar, Bharatpur and Dausa districts of the state.
In last September India and Norway had signed an agreement on addressing concerns related to child and mother mortality with Norway committing to spend about $80 million on the programmes to be conducted in five states -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar. The Norway government is already familiar with the problems that beset India’s lesser developed states and their launching a new series of health programmes in Rajasthan could reinforce some of the state’s existing initiatives.
With additional inputs by Taru Bahl