An initiative to reduce mother and child mortality in South Asian countries

Concerned over the high maternal mortality ratio in South Asian countries, gynaecologists and obstetricians have got together to launch a fast track initiative — Helping Mothers Survive — to reduce mother and child mortality in war-torn Afghanistan and other countries in the region, including India.

The initiative entails training health care personnel by fast track teams using an innovative model of birth simulator called ‘mammanatalle’. This includes training on prevention, recognition and treatment of PPH and PE/E (Postpartum Haemorrhage and Pre Eclampsia and Eclampsia). These are identified as the leading causes of maternal mortality.

“Our aim is to prevent needless maternal deaths and the urgency is expressed by calling this mission as a ‘fast track initiative’,” said Hema Divakar, president of the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), the apex body of obstetricians and gynaecologists in the country.

The initiative will be launched by FOGSI in association with the South Asian Federation of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (SAFOG) and the Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynaecology and Obstetrics (Jhpiego).

Every day 800 women die worldwide because of pregnancy-related health problems and a staggering 99 per cent of these are reported from developing countries. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is particularly high among populous South Asian nations because of poor nutrition and health services delivery mechanism.

“The war-ravaged Afghanistan has the highest MMR at 1,400 for every 100,000. This is way above the other South Asian nations — India 236/100,000; Pakistan — 260/100,000 and Bangladesh — 194/100,000. Therefore, our immediate aim is to bring down the MMR in Afghanistan through timely intervention. We are in the final stages of evolving a plan involving professional organisations of both countries and respective governments,” said Dr. Divakar.

The Jhpiego has extended complete support to the joint initiative of FOGSI and SAFOG. “We welcome this initiative as Afghanistan needs this kind of support from other countries to rebuild the nation…We will extend complete support to this initiative,” said Dr. Bulbul Sood, Country Director, Jhpiego.

According to the UN Millennium Development Goals, the MMR has to reduce by 5.5 per cent on an annual basis, but it is at 2.3 per cent at present. “The MMR in developed nations is 16 for every 100,000, whereas the average MMR in developing nations is 240/100,000. This is higher in a few African and South Asian nations. If we have to meet the UN Goals, then we need to intensify our programs to reduce the MMR through a combination of improved access to healthcare services and training,” Dr. Divakar added.

This initiative took shape at the recently concluded ninth SAFOG conference where it was resolved to conduct training programs for obstetricians, gynaecologists, medical officers, primary health care centre staff and auxiliary nurse midwives/ staff nurses of South Asian nations through the “Helping Mothers Survive” campaign to educate them about reducing MMR.