Government’s gift for rural brides: pregnancy test strips!

June 15th, 2008 - 12:46 pm ICT by IANS  

By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) Call it a thoughtful wedding gift. The government will give packets of pregnancy test strips to rural women on the occasion of their marriage - to reduce unwanted pregnancies and maternal mortality across India. “It’s a known fact that 53 percent of Indian women get married before reaching the legal age of 18 and have their first baby by 15 or 16 years of age. The problem is really huge in rural India,” Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said.

“They are not aware about the complications of pregnancy. Many a time these are unwanted pregnancies. It is sad that when a rural woman becomes pregnant the whole locality knows about it.

“We want that women should know about their pregnancy status as soon as possible so that unwanted complications can be curbed. We are going to gift rural women packets of pregnancy test strips during marriage,” Dayal told IANS.

He said it will be free of cost and distributed by accredited social health activists (ASHAs) working at the village level. This will help them evade “social embarrassment” and “do away with unwanted pregnancies”.

“They can know their pregnancy status with these small strips.”

“This is a very innovative idea and the test strips will be given as a marriage gift. We are giving training to these ASHAs about it and will flood villages with these small devices,” Dayal added.

Hindustan Latex Limited (HLL), a leading contraceptive manufacturer, is producing these test strips at its Manesar unit in Haryana. Within a few months, the scheme will be rolled out across India.

Currently, 301 women out of every 100,000 giving birth die during either pregnancy or childbirth. The situation in some states is even worse - the maternal mortality ratio in Uttar Pradesh is 517 per 100,000 live births and 371 in Jharkhand.

“I think it will be a great idea to gift pregnancy strips to rural brides. I am sure it will improve the condition of maternal health. Our state certainly needs it,” Nidhi Khare, commissioner Ranchi Division of Jharkhand, told IANS.

More than 70 percent of girls in Jharkhand are married off at less than 18 years and more than 80 percent women are anaemic, explained Khare, who was recently in Delhi.

Dayal said the government was initially targeting 18 high focus states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland, and Meghalaya. The pregnancy test strips would be distributed first in these states.

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