The maternal mortality rate in West Bengal has dropped sharply by 20% due to health reforms in the state, latest statistics say.
Quoting a latest survey report prepared by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also holds the health portfolio, told PTI that the maternal mortality rate (MMR) rate has fallen to 117 per 1 lakh childbirths during 2010-12.
The figure during the period 2007-09 was 145 per 1 lakh childbirths.
The state ranks fifth in the new list which is topped by Kerala which registered only 66 women fatalities in one lakh cases.
Maternal deaths are defined as the number of women who die during pregnancy or within 42 days of the termination of pregnancy.
Chandrima Bhattacharya, state minister of state for health, credited the improvement to the increasing number of institutional deliveries in West Bengal.
"We have taken a comprehensive approach to improve maternal health. We have improved awareness and infrastructure to tackle issues like malnutrition and early marriage," she said adding the 'Kanyashree' scheme ensures that girls below 18 years are not forced into marriage.
Biswa Ranjan Satpathy, director of health services, said they are confident of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to maternal health in the state.
The target for India is to achieve a maternal mortality rate of 109 by 2015.
"Complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in most developing countries. Maternal health and newborn health are closely linked. More than three million newborns die every year, and an additional 2.6 million babies are stillborn," says a United Nations report on maternal health.
Health experts say skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
Among the districts in West Bengal, North 24-Parganas, Hooghly, Howrah, Birbhum and Burdwan are registering low mortality rates, Satpathy said, adding that Uttar Dinajpur, Murshidabad and Malda are lagging behind.
"There are a lot of social, economic, cultural and behavioural factors which determine maternal mortality rates," said the health department official.
The state government has already started the construction of 13 mother-child hubs inside district hospitals and medical colleges all over the state where all health facilities needed for newborns and pregnant mothers are available under one roof.
"Once this is ready, then both the infant and maternal mortality rates would come down," Satpathy said.