Nov 22, 2014

Project on Improving Maternal Health Status in Six States in India


Oxfam India formally launched Department for International Development (DFID) supported Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF) project – “Improving Maternal Health Status in Six States in India” in Bihar on October 31, 2012. The project aims to improve the maternal health of marginalised community in three districts of Sitamarhi, Supaul and Kishanganj through two grassroots partner organisations covering 70 villages of the state.

The project supports UN MDGs (United Nations- Millennium Development Goals) to improve maternal health and well-being of the rural poor with the support of DFID-GPAF. The Bihar project launch has been attended by  a cross section of people which included representatives from partner organisations, community members, members of various INGOs and NGOs of the region, members of networks, different government departments, activists and journalists from print and electronic media.

The launch commenced with a welcome note by Pravind Kumar Praveen, Regional Manager- East India, Oxfam India where he expressed his gratitude to the journalists and distinguished dignitaries present in the programme. He gave a brief introduction about Oxfam India and DFID- GPAF supported project and its intervention strategy. Pravind highlighted that considering grim realities with regard to MMR, IMR and under nutrition in India as well as in Bihar, working on MDG- 5 (Improving Maternal Health) became a natural choice for Oxfam India. This initiative of Oxfam India is expected to directly benefit 33750 women and 35368 men in Bihar. 

Vyas Ji, Principal Secretary, Department of Health, Govt. of Bihar along with the other dignitaries launched the project with the lighting of lamp at A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies. Speaking at the launch Vyas Ji said that health is basically a social issue. Health expenditure is one of the major reasons, which continuously pushes poor of the society in the circle of poverty. He emphasized the need of convergence of health with ICDS and PDS. Further he said there is an urgent need to change our society in order to ensure women are empowered and they enjoy rights of healthy living. He stressed on the need of innovative thinking and if Bihar can come up with a minimum yardsticks on health like Ten Commandment of Health which should be followed by all.

Vyas Ji stressed that programmatic interventions should be taken to train rural traditional birth attendants to improve maternal health situations in State. He shared that Bihar Government is contemplating on constituting a core committee for preventive health care and informed Oxfam India will be included in this committee. He also commended Oxfam India’s efforts on various development issues and assured of full cooperation from the health department for this project. He added that Department of Health will issue a letter in the name of civil surgeons and other health department officials instructing to render full support to project interventions at district level. Admiring Oxfam India’s holistic approach to view health from social determinant perspective rather than narrow curative perspective, he congratulated Oxfam India for bringing people from different walks of life such as social activists, media representatives, social scientists, health practitioners, INGOs and NGOs representatives and government officials on a single platform. On this occasion, Vyas Ji also released project brochure which details about the maternal health status in Bihar and Jharkhand, nature of DFID- GPAF project, its interventions and expected outcomes.

While India has seen steady economic growth and has made some progress towards the MDGs (poverty & education), the healthcare goals lag significantly with unacceptably high rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality and under nutrition. India has the highest number of maternal deaths in the world. The national maternal mortality rate (MMR) has improved from 254 (SRS 2004-06) to 212 (SRS 2007-09) per 100000 live births. MMR of Bihar and Jharkhand (combined) also improved from 312 (SRS 2004 -2006) to 261 (SRS 2007-2009). Despite the improvement the two states are lagging behind the national average. The “Annual Report to the People on Health of the Government of India” released in September 2010 also reveals that India may miss MDG target of reducing MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births by a big margin. On this backdrop, working on MDG-5 (Improving Maternal Health) became a natural choice for Oxfam India. 

This project aims to contribute to access to complete package of maternal health care through social determinant approach. It will work at multiple levels on women’s access to nutrition, health awareness and demand, empowerment of women and delayed marriage; building community capacity for planning and demanding accountability of health services.

Speaking on the occasion D. K. Gupta, Officer on Special Duty (OSD), Department of Health, Govt. of Bihar said that health needs should be specially focused at the times of disasters. D. M. Diwakar, Director, A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies highlighted that health is a collective responsibility. There is a need for convergence of various efforts which could lead to better health situations. He also urged for the need of respecting and utilizing community based knowledge resources which are available in the villages. Dr. Shakil Ur Rehman, Executive Director, CHARM highlighted the need of improving adequate health infrastructure especially at the village and block level. Shri Rupesh, Advisor to the Right to Food Commissioners of Supreme Court felt the need for coming together of all concerned to improve health status especially of maternal health. He stressed that community initiative and participation.should be on high priority.

Among the other speakers were Sujeet Ranjan, Director Care, Bihar and Tushar Kanti Dash, State Programme Manger, Plan India and Sanjeev Bhanj from PATH.

Story and photo credit: Bipin Kumar

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