How a pack of cards helped improve maternal health in Bihar

By Sophie Cousins 11 May 2015

A mother sits with her newborn in Bihar, India. A 2012 study on India’s progress toward achieving its MDG on maternal health, published in the WHO Southeast Asia Journal of Public Health, found that aside from West Bengal, Bihar — India’s poorest state — had made the greatest reduction in maternal deaths since 1997. Photo by: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation / CC BY-NC-ND

While India has been reporting a steady decline in its maternal mortality rate, the country still accounts for the largest number of maternal deaths in the world. In 2010, India recorded 56,000 maternal and 1.3 million infant deaths — the highest for any country.

According to the Millennium Development Goals, India’s target is to reduce its MMR by three-quarters, from 437 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990-91, to 109 by the end of 2015.

India’s MMR was at 190 per 100,000 births in 2013, according to the latest figures from UNICEF and the World Bank — leading experts to project India won’t reach its MMR goal by the end of the year.

But such dismal statistics, in a nation striving to be known more for technological innovation and as an economic powerhouse rather than mothers dying on the floor from preventable deaths, have spurred inventive efforts to combat the issue.

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About the author

Sophie Cousins

Sophie Cousins is a health writer based in India. She was previously based between Lebanon and Iraq focusing on refugee health and conflict. She is particularly interested in infectious diseases and rural health in South Asia. She writes for international medical journals, including The Lancet, and for international news websites such as Al-Jazeera English.

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