The WHO has commended India's progress in reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by 77 per cent, from 556 per 1,00,000 live births in 1990 to 130 per 1,00,000 live births in 2016.
It said this progress puts the country on track towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of an MMR below 70 by 2030.
India's present MMR is below the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target.
WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Poonam Khetrapal Singh said the country has made a concerted push to increase access to quality maternal health services with the coverage of essential maternal health services having doubled since 2005.
Also, the proportion of institutional deliveries in public facilities has almost tripled, from 18 per cent in 2005 to 52 per cent in 2016 (including private facilities, institutional deliveries now stand at 79 per cent), she said.
State-subsidised demand-side financing like the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) which allows all pregnant women delivering in public health institutions free transport and no-expense delivery, including caesarian section has largely closed the urban-rural divide traditionally seen in institutional births, Singh claimed.
Thirdly, Singh said the country has put significant emphasis on mitigating the social determinants of maternal health.
Women in India are more literate than ever, with 68 per cent now able to read and write, she said.
They are also entering marriage at an older age, with just 27 per cent now wedded before the age of 18. These factors alone have enabled Indian women to better control their reproductive lives and make decisions that reflect their own interests and wants, Singh said.
"Finally, the government has put in substantive efforts to facilitate positive engagement between public and private health care providers.
"Campaigns such as the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan have been introduced with great impact, allowing women access to antenatal check-ups, obstetric gynecologists and to track high-risk pregnancies, exactly what is needed to make further gains and achieve the SDG targets," Singh said.
India has registered a significant decline in Maternal Mortality Ratio, recording a 22 per cent reduction in such deaths since 2013, according to a Sample Registration System bulletin released earlier this week.
The MMR - number of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births - has declined from 167 in 2011-2013 to 130 in 2014-2016.
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