By Megan E. Dodge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
LUCKNOW, India- A report released on October 7, “No Tally of the Anguish: Accountability in Maternal Health Care in India,” reveals that tens of thousands of women and girls in India are dying during pregnancy, childbirth, and the weeks that follow. Human rights activists are concerned with this finding which suggests that government programs that guarantee free obstetric health care are unsuccessful in their efforts.
Family mourns death of adolesent girl who died after giving birth. Courtesy of Care2.
The research for the report was conducted between November 2008 and August 2009 by the Human Rights Watch included field research and interviews with victims, families, medical experts, officials and human rights activists in Uttar Pradesh (located in Northern India) and surrounding areas. Researchers reviewed government surveys and reports by local and international nongovernmental organizations. The area was selected because it has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in India, though government surveys show it is not alone in struggling with these problems, including recordation errors such as statistics indicating the number of women actually dying from pregnancy related complications.
The report includes breakdowns that show how specific cases were failures and the result that occurred. For instance, Kavita K. is tracked in the report and indicates that she developed post-partum complications, that the local community health center was unable to treat her. Testimony from her father, Suraj S. was also included, in which he states that the family tried to bring her to three different governmental hospitals, but none wanted to admit her. The fourth hospital took Kavita in as a patient, but an hour after treatment she died.
While India has created programs such as, the National Rural Health Mission, to improve rural health, with a specific focus on maternal health, the report illustrates the shortcomings and gaps in these governmental sponsored programs. The “concrete service guarantees,” including free care before and during childbirth, in-patient hospital services, comprehensive emergency obstetric care, referral in case of complications, and postnatal care clearly is not reaching the tens of thousands of Indian women and girls still dying from these and related child birthing complications. One of the biggest criticisms is accountability.
For more information, please see:
Human Rights Watch – India: Too Many Women Dying in Childbirth – October 7, 2009
Newstin ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Pregnant Indian Women Die From ‘Preventable Causes’ – October 9, 2009
MedIndia – Indian Women Die In Childbirth In Large Numbers – October 9, 2009
Care2 – India: Too Many Women Dying in Childbirth: Despite National Commitment, Many Unable to Access Services – October 7, 2009