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A change called ASHA in Bihar

Seventy one thousand ASHA workers are helping in providing safe delivery to about 1.1 million women

PATNA, Bihar, India, 22 April 2010 – As the world celebrates Safe Motherhood Day on April 11, meet Mamta Kumari, a 8th class pass out from village Saini in the Eastern Indian state of Bihar.

Over the past three years, Mamta, the village ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) has been pivotal in bringing as many as 60 women in their advanced labour to the nearest Primary Health Centre (PHC) for institutional delivery.

Be it night or day, Mamta accompanies the women for their safe deliveries conducted by trained doctors at the nearest PHC which is about twelve kilometers from her home. Mamta gets Rs 200 (approx $4) for every delivery.

”Had Mamta not taken the initiative of bringing the mothers to the PHC, half of the mothers and infants lives will have been risked,” says Mahanand Singh, incharge of PHC in Vaishali.

There are about 71,350 ASHA health workers in Bihar, who have ensured safe delivery of about 1.1 million women in the state. The strong network of ASHA workers in the state has resulted in increase of institutional deliveries and decrease in both infant and maternal mortality.

“In 2005, only 44,000 deliveries took place in hospitals or Primary Health Centers. However the situation has improved manifold with the implementation of NRHM and the recruitment of additional ASHAs. The efficient network of anganwadi and trained ANM workers has also helped the increase in the number of institutional deliveries in the state,” says Dr Shirin Varkey, Health Specialist, UNICEF Bihar.

“PHCs present in all the block headquarters in the state are now open 24 hours. Now one out of every two pregnant women has access to institutional delivery,” he adds.

“Out of 2.9 million infants born in Bihar every year, approximately 150,000 infants  die due to the low number of institutional deliveries. Institutional deliveries have helped in saving the lives of about 50 per cent or 75, 000 infants,” says OP Kansal, Health Consultant, UNICEF.

Amarjeet Sinha, Joint Director, NRHM says there are 830, 000 ASHAs in the country who are helping pregnant women to receive antenatal care, institutional delivery and immunization of their infants.

Institutional deliveries have risen from 10.8 million to 14.5 million in the first three years of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM),

Quick Facts on safe motherhood in Bihar:

• In 1999, only 15.9 per cent of all women could avail of the three essential pregnancy health check ups. This figure has now increased to 26.4 per cent.
• While in 1998, only 14 per cent of the women had access to institutional delivery and avail the services of hospitals and PHCs, the figure has now increased to 47.9 per cent.
• Likewise, the percentage of infants (12-23 months) being fully immunized has risen from 32.8 per cent to 43.5 per cent in the past three years 

The article is an abbreviated version of the Hindi article published in Hindustan Newspaper

 

 
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