For millions of mothers in India the birth of a child seems more like a gamble with death than a time for celebration.
According to a report by NGO Save the Children, India alone accounts for 29 percent of the three million babies around the world that die annually on their first day of life—making the first 24 hours the riskiest day for newborns. India also accounts for 56,000 maternal deaths per year, more than any other country in the world.
Most newborns die as a result of easily preventable infections, birth complications, and premature births, simply due to a lack of basic health care services as many rural women in India still give birth at home in the absence of any medical assistance.
“For a successful delivery, the labor process should be fully institutionalized and assisted only in the supervision of a skilled doctor to avoid any mishaps,” said Dr. Goldy Kamboj, a gynecologist and maternal-child health expert at the Columbia Asia Hospital in Patiala, India.
“With the presence of a medical expert on the ground, the birth related problems can be quickly identified and tackled during the delivery process, lowering the risk factor for both the mother and child,” said Kamboj, who has been honored by Punjab state for conducting the largest number of safe deliveries and cesareans in 2009 and 2012.
The report published in May highlights that in some rural communities women give birth in unclean areas of the house where the newborn is placed on the dirt floor immediately after birth.
“When a child is placed into his mother’s arms for the first time, that woman’s life is changed forever. The moment is brief and precious,” said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive officer of Save the Children International in the report.
“We must seize the opportunity to invest in this most basic, most enduring partnership—between a mother and her child—if we are to change forever the course of history and end preventable child deaths.”
Although there are many challenges, India seems to have mobilized its “political will” to achieve the healthcare targets set forth in the Millennium Development Goals to reduce the mortality rate for children under five, and the maternal mortality rate by 2015.
The Indian government has initiated many healthcare programs for rural communities providing effective primary health care to the under privileged and vulnerable parts of society, especially women and children, by improving accessibility and quality of public health services.
“The government is facilitating free deliveries, free medicines, and free transport from hospital-to-home. Even then most couples from the backward communities deliberately opt for a delivery at home,” Kamboj said.
“The unawareness and ignorance are the major causes of this problem.”