June 12, 2014

National Convention on Maternal Health

National Convention on Maternal Health: Agenda for Second Generation Priorities in Maternal Health Programming
NAMHHR in collaboration with OXFAM

Making Maternal Health a Matter of Priority for the Nation: Drafting of a new road map for second generation priorities in maternal health.
Speaking at the National Convention on Maternal Health Shri Satyabrata Pal, Ex-member of the National Human Rights Commission stated that, “Women as a whole are marginalized and therefore their lives and health is not a matter of priority for the nation.”He called for putting an end to the abdication of responsibility between the state government and the Central Government.
The preventable tragedy of maternal deaths in India was comprehensively discussed at the National Convention on Maternal Health in India entitled Agenda for Second Generation Priorities in Maternal Health Programming’, held in New Delhi on the 20-21 March organized by the National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR) in collaboration with Oxfam India. The group felt that the unacceptable high rates of maternal mortality in a middle income country like India, needs to become a national priority.  Maternal health cannot be the problem of only the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; it needs the coming together of different departments such as Roads and Transportation, Agricultural (as food policies affect food security), Science and Technology, Environment, etc to save the tens of thousands of lives of women in our country who die of preventable causes during maternity.
India’s maternal death rate was supposed to decrease by one-third to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. The nation stands on the threshold of this deadline with an average maternal mortality rate of 178 per 100,000 birth in 2010-2011, down from 254 in 2004-2006. But there is great variance even amongst these figures, with maternal mortality rates per 100,000 live births being as low as 66 in Kerala and 90 in Tamil Nadu, to shockingly high rates of 347 in Assam and 300 in Uttar Pradesh.
Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member of Planning Commission said that, “The recommendations and issues discussed by this group would contribute to the implementation of the 12th Five- year plan whose motto is inclusive growth. She asked the group to provide these inputs into the midterm appraisal of the Plan.”
Also present at the event was Shri Manoj Jhalani (JS, Policy MOHFW) who said that the ministry agreed with the analysis and concerns emerging and looked forward to the operational road map from such field based organizations who can give practical solutions.  He also highlighted that the government could put in place grievance redress mechanisms but the proper utilization of these by pregnant women needs an enabling environment.
 “The health system should not treat pregnant women just as patients but as empowered and active agents who have the right to choose the location and services that they want”, said Prof Ritu Priya from the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU. She added that the Dais, ASHAs and ANMs can together form a team which could work to support women in rural areas throughout maternity.
 “For too long we have been counting maternal deaths without accountability towards the women at risk of losing their lives and the health system needs to learn how to prevent such deaths and make public the action being taken”, said Jashodhara Dasgupta, convenor of the National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights  and the organizers of the event

The meeting brought together practitioners and researchers on maternal health, campaigners on various issues of human rights, public health and health systems experts, lawyers, budget analysts as well as representatives from the government and donors.