ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Matter of Life and Death

India's maternal mortality rate has declined, but much more needs to be done.

The announcement by the Registrar General of India that the maternal mortality rate (MMR) declined by 16% in 2010-12 as compared to 2007-09 is good news. The MMR, which is the number of maternal deaths for every 1,00,000 live births, dropped from 212 in 2007-09 to 178 in 2010-12. But the decline is not yet cause for celebration since maternal deaths continue to be very high and India remains among the poorest performers, lagging behind Bangladesh and Nepal.

There are, however, a few factors that indicate a silver lining. The gap between the worst- and best-performing states is narrowing albeit at a slow pace. The symbiotic bond between the issue gaining prominence in public discourse and the political will to tackle it is also growing. The latter though certainly could do with much more heft. On the negative side, all the factors that contribute to preventable maternal deaths remain strongly present: anaemia in women, early marriages of girls, the generally poor nutritional status of women and the overall discrimination against girls and women. All these need to be tackled along with addressing the medical factors that cause maternal mortality.

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