New Delhi: Maternal and infant mortality have dropped significantly in nine states that account for half the country’s population, according to the latest Annual Health Survey data released on Wednesday.

The performance of the states in terms of women and infant health indicators is still poor as compared to the national average.

While 246 districts recorded lower infant mortality rate in 2012-13 from 2011-12, 22 districts recorded an increase in infant mortality and 16 districts showed no change. Jharkhand recorded the lowest infant mortality rate at 36 deaths per 1,000 live births, and Uttar Pradesh the highest at 68. The national average for infant mortality is 42 deaths, while the Millennium Development Goals have set a target of 29.

“The worst performing districts are still the worst performing and there is no movement in the indicators in these districts," said Sona Sharma, joint director of advocacy and communications at Population Fund of India, a civil society group that looks at population issues and reproductive health care. “The problem is that there is supposed to be decentralized planning in terms of National Ruaral Health Mission, but a lot of planning is still done at the state level, hence marginalized districts continue to remain so."

While Uttarakhand has the lowest maternal mortality rate at 165 deaths per 100,000live births, it also showed the lowest decrease from the baseline year 2011-12, when it was 188.

Rajasthan showed the highest fall in maternal mortality from the baseline year when it recorded a mortality rate of 331, to 208 in 2012-13. Despite improvement from the previous survey, maternal mortality in all nine states ranged from 165 to 391, most of them much higher than the national average of 178. The millennium development goal target is 109.

With respect to sex ratio at birth, 36% of the districts have sex ratio at birth less than 900 females per 1,000 males, whereas it was 44% in the baseline year. Assam recorded the maximum rise in sex ratio at birth at 22, while Madhya Pradesh recorded the minimum increase of one.

This was the last annual health survey conducted since it was conceived in 2005 to monitor the performance of health interventions carried out under the National Rural Health Mission at annual intervals. The health ministry decided to do away with the AHS to avoid duplication of data.

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