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Innovative approaches improve maternal and child health care in Madhya Pradesh, India

Maternal and child health care have come a long way since innovative pilot programmes were started five years ago in Madhya Pradesh, India.  Download this video


By Mark Dummett

Globally, there were an estimated 289,000 maternal deaths in 2013, a decline of 45 per cent from 1990. Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death for adolescent girls. Babies whose mothers die during the first six weeks of their lives are also far more likely to die in the first two years of life than babies whose mothers survive.

Reducing maternal mortality is just one of the 25 achievements we are celebrating as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in November. Learn more about the progress we’ve made and what still needs to be done.

For the mothers and babies of Madhya Pradesh, India, safer births are on the rise.
MADHYA PRADESH, India, 29 October 2013 – Roopwati is on her way home. Twenty-four hours ago, she was in the same ambulance, on her way to give birth in a clinic, under medical supervision.

“Everything went really well,” she says. “It was easy.” Roopwati has given birth to a healthy boy.

Breaking with the past

Two years ago, this journey wouldn’t have been possible. There was no government-provided ambulance and no clinic, and Roopwati would have been forced to have her baby at home.


© UNICEF Video
Working with the government, UNICEF has upgraded maternal and child health centres. More and more babies are delivered in hospital, instead of at home.

If something had gone wrong, she’d have been in trouble, with little chance of reaching a doctor.

But, as Roopwati found yesterday, things are improving. UNICEF has been piloting solutions for improving maternal and child health, with dramatic results.

According to UNICEF Health Specialist Gagan Gupta, “Five years back, every second woman was delivering at home. But now, eight out of ten women are delivering at hospital – and this region of Madhya Pradesh has recorded the lowest maternal mortality in the entire state.”

Safer births

Working with the government, UNICEF has upgraded the health centre nearest Roopwati’s home, so that women like her can give birth safely there. It provided new equipment and hired new nurses. A call centre was established in the district hospital two hours away to make sure that the ambulance reaches women on time and takes them home again, once they’ve given birth.

If there are problems with a birth, the ambulance can take the mother to a newborn care unit in the district hospital. The unit is equipped with incubators and can accommodate children born underweight and unwell.

According to Chief of Health of UNICEF’s Madhya Pradesh office Tania Goldner, “[N]ow I feel that we are able to bring these services, and not just services, good quality services, close to people’s homes, close to women and children who need those services.”

© UNICEF Video
Upgraded maternal and neonatal health centres, including a call centre, means that ambulances can reach women on time to bring them to the district hospital two hours away - and take them home after childbirth.

Saving children’s lives

UNICEF started this work five years ago in only two districts, but its pilots have proven so successful that the Madhya Pradesh government has replicated them elsewhere. Medical facilities have been improved across the state.

Director of National Rural Health Mission of Madhya Pradesh Dr. M. Geeta talks about how they were able to roll out the clinics. “We actually drew from the technical expertise of UNICEF, and this enabled us to scale up the whole experience of Guna and Shivpuri.

“As of today, we have a near total coverage of the state for the [neonatal care units] and call centres…and it has been supported in terms of financial assistance, which came from the National Rural Health Mission of the Madhya Pradesh government.”

The impact across the state has been enormous. Every year, half a million pregnant women are using the ambulance service, and 50,000 newborn lives are saved by the special care units.

And more mothers and babies may soon have access to safe births and improved neonatal care: Other states, and the central government, are now interested in introducing these programmes, too.



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