Assam in India’s northeast has the country’s highest rate of maternal mortality, as per the latest official data. According to experts, insurgency which affects access to healthcare services, is one of the main reasons for this.
Speaking at a press meet in the capital Friday, Bulbul Sood, co-chair of the White Ribbon Alliance, an NGO that campaigns for safe motherhood, said: ‘There may be a lot of reasons for Assam having the highest maternal mortality. Insurgency in the state is one of the main reasons because it affects access to basic healthcare services’.
‘Also there is a general lack of involvement by stakeholders in uplifting the healthcare services in the region,’ she added.
According to the Sample Registration Services (SRS) 2004-2006, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) for Assam was 480 per 100,000 live births – the highest in the country. India’s MMR was 254.
Aparajita Gogoi, national coordinator of WRA, said: ‘It’s difficult to pinpoint one particular reason for such results. There is a gamut of social issues, insurgency, no development, lack of infrastructure, lack of manpower in healthcare system and other such things which contribute to such drastic results’.
‘Also, most northeastern women are anaemic which is genetic in nature. While there is no scientific study yet to assess this, this may be yet another reason for the high MMR,’ she added.
A.K.Shiva Kumar, development economist and member of the erstwhile National Advisory Council, however, said that insurgency cannot be completely blamed for the high MMR in any state.
‘Look at Sri Lanka. They had to battle a lot of insurgency, yet they managed to bring down their MMR to 43 while India remains a long way behind, at 254 and Assam at 480. I think absence of investment in the health sector is a major reason for this,’ Shiva Kumar said.
As per the Millennium Development Goals of 2015, India should bring down its MMR to 109.