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Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, on Monday, said that the high infant and maternal mortality rates are not just health issues, and should be addressed from all aspects.
“We need to realise that this is a problem which has many aspects linked to it. Health is just one part of it. This is an issue which needs to be addressed from all aspects as it relates to social and economic aspects, including women's empowerment,” Sangma said.
Sangma’s statement was in response to a discussion on a news article which had appeared in an English daily under the headline “State records over 900 deaths of infants and pregnant woman in April-July.”
Congress MLA, Himalaya Shangpliang, brought up the discussion on the second day of the Autumn Session of the Meghalaya Assembly.
Speaking about the state’s maternal mortality rate in the past few years, Sangma informed that the number of maternal deaths was 211 in 2015, 198 in 2016, 197 in 2017, 164 in 2018, 174 in 2019 and 61 in 2020.
On the number of infant mortality rates, Sangma informed that the number of deaths of infants between the age of 0 to 12 months was 2,513 in 2015, 2,427 in 2016, 2,512 in 2017, 2,074 in 2018, 2,524 in 2019 and 859 from April to July this year.
“Going by the figures, we are constantly seeing 190 of maternal deaths and over 2,500 deaths of children. This has been consistent in the past five years, which is a matter of great concern,” Sangma said.
On the deaths of the 900 infants and pregnant women from April to July this year, Sangma called the deaths an eye-opener as they had given too much attention to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Sangma said that the Government had also come up with the “Mother Programme” - a programme focusing on women's empowerment.
“We had looked at the institutional delivery at Ampati in South West Garo Hills while using technology to monitor the pregnant mother. We are encouraging mothers to come for institutional delivery. Within eight months, we could touch 80 per cent of the institutional delivery in South West Garo Hills. It was a pilot project, and it showed the results,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sangma stated that 10 per cent are teenage deliveries and over 30 per cent are women below the age of 30 giving birth to a third child.
“We also see that 40 per cent of pregnancies are unintended and unwarranted. We are seeing this trend is emerging, realising the importance of taking measures in certain areas to help the pregnant women,” he said.
“After seeing this, we felt that there is a need to connect the nutrition programme, mother’s health programme and economic empowerment programme for women to address the problem faced by mothers,” he said.
Earlier, Congress MLA Himalaya Shangpliang expressed concern that at least 61 pregnant women and 877 newborns died in Meghalaya in the last four months starting from April for want of admission to hospitals and also because of the lack of medical attention given the COVID-19 pandemic.
While referring to the statement made by Director of Health Services, Dr Aman Warr, Shangpliang said that newborn deaths were because of lack of medical attention and proper care, pneumonia and birth asphyxia.
The Congress MLA said that it is a matter of concern that the infant and maternal mortality rate have risen sharply as the state's entire health machinery is diverted to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also expressed concern over the lack of proper medical facilities in health centres in remote parts of the state.
Other Congress MLAs who took part in the discussion included Ampareen Lyngdoh, Mayralborn Syiem, and George B. Lyngdoh.