India’s rural health mission not delivering results: Unicef

April 9th, 2008 - 11:37 am ICT by admin  

By Prashant K. Nanda
Udaipur (Rajasthan), April 9 (IANS) India’s rural health mission is failing to deliver results, says a top Unicef official, pointing out that half of the country’s women still deliver babies at home and it still contributes 20 percent of the world’s child mortality. “It’s a shame that a country that is developing by nearly nine percent per year contributes 20 percent of the child mortality of the world. India needs to do better things for its children and women,” said Marzio Babille, head of health at Unicef India.

Babille, who was in Udaipur to participate in a national level pneumococcal diseases conference, said the much-touted National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the Indian government needed to be goal oriented.

“The programme needs to be made more effective and goal-oriented. It needs very good managers who can work on a Gandhian mission and vocational commitment to improving rural health,” Babille told IANS in an interview.

The NRHM programme, carried out and controlled by the ministry of health, was launched in 2005 to improve and upgrade healthcare facilities in rural India.

He said several projects under NRHM like Janani Suraksha Yojana (save the mother project) and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) schemes were not a huge hit.

“In 2007, only 52 percent of the eligible 7.5 million women received the benefits of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). This is not an achievement,” Babille lamented.

Under the JSY, the government pays a certain amount to a woman who gives birth to a baby in hospital. But even then, half of India’s women deliver at home without any medical attention. Experts believe it is one of the key reasons for maternal mortality in the country.

He said the ASHAs are also not well trained and they are overburdened. “India never lacks manpower but trained manpower is a concern here.”

He said the problem is people do not know much about the programmes and the authorities are not doing enough to make them popular. “States like Jharkhand are in need of good health managers.”

The Unicef official said in the last seven years the country had not made any progress to improve the nourishment situation.

“In the last seven years, the malnourishment level among Indian children has gone down by merely one percent. While 47 percent of children were malnourished seven years back, currently it is 46 percent,” he said.

According to a recent report by Unicef, every year 2.1 million children in India do not survive to celebrate their fifth birthday. This means one out of every five children under the age of five dying worldwide is an Indian.

Babille said building capacity, integration of NRHM and the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) of the ministry of women and child development and better awareness campaigns were required to improve India’s health situation.

He, however, praised Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Orissa for doing well in the field of rural health. “Uttar Pradesh needs to work hard,” he said.

(Prashant Nanda can be contacted at Prashant.

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