India had a high burden of maternal and child mortality in the 1990s, but has made significant strides in stemming the deaths, a senior health ministry official said Thursday.
"In the 1990s, India's average Maternal Mortality Rate was 600, today it is at 178 (in 2011-12) which is lower than the global average of 210 in 2010. We have made progress faster than the global rate of decline," Additional Secretary and National Health Mission Director Anuradha Gupta said.
The maternal mortality rate refers to the number of maternal deaths per 1,000 women of reproductive age in the population. Maternal deaths are defined as the number of women who die during pregnancy or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy.
"Under-5 mortality stood at 115 in 1990, and as per the latest estimates, it has come down to 52 in 2012. With a last, accelerated push we can meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals of UN) regarding maternal mortality and infant mortality," Gupta said.
"I wonder if all of us really acknowledge that India began with a very high burden of infant and maternal mortality, and we have made significant progress since then," she said at a workshop on reproductive and maternal-newborn health, supported by non-governmental organisation Save the Children.
To achieve Millennium Development Goals (on maternal health), India needs to reduce maternal mortality (MMR) from 600 in 1991 to 109 by 2015.
Acknowledging that India has not done as well as it should have in cutting down the neo-natal mortality rate, Gupta said, "Although we are struggling to bring down the neo-natal mortality, the good news is that the rate of decline has become faster in the last few years -- we also gain confidence from the fact that if India can stay free of polio for the last three years, there is no reason why we cannot meet the MDG targets on maternal health and child health."