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New Tool Analyzes High Maternal Mortality In India

UNICEF Highlights New Tool To Analyze High Maternal Mortality Rates In India

New York, Oct 7 2008 7:10PM

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is spotlighting the introduction of a new tool in India that is designed to help health-care experts, policymakers and local communities across the country understand the root causes of its high rates of maternal mortality.

The tool, known as the Maternal and Perinatal Death Inquiry and Response (MAPEDIR), has collected data and analyzed the cases of some 1,600 women across six states within India to show the underlying medical and social reasons behind maternal deaths.

An estimated 80,000 Indian women, either pregnant or new mothers, die each year from preventable causes, including haemorrhage, eclampsia, sepsis and anaemia, according to MAPEDIR. Haemorrhage after delivery is the most common cause of death.

Many other deaths go unrecorded because they occur in the anonymity of a women’s homes or when the woman is on the way to seek help at a medical facility. In total, an average of 301 women die annually for every 100,000 live births across India.

Chris Hirabayashi, the deputy director of UNICEF’s programmes in India, said the agency was working with health authorities in selected districts in the six states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and West Bengal – to promote surveillance as a crucial strategy to cut both maternal and child mortality.

“The tragic reality is that too often maternal deaths are not visible,” Mr. Hirabayashi said. “They don’t leave any trace behind, and their deaths are not accounted for.”

UNICEF said that if India is to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of slashing maternal mortality figures by three quarters by 2015, it must tackle critical social and economic factors, such as the low status of women, the poor understanding of many families about health care, the cost of such care, and also the low standard of roads and other forms of transport.

Last month a broader UNICEF report found that at least 500,000 women die unnecessarily around the world each year because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth, with the vast majority occurring in the developing world.

MAPEDIR is being funded by the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development, and UNICEF is providing technical support to the initiative.

ENDS

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