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Home > News > PTI

Women's health still low priority in India: UN

July 10, 2007 18:05 IST

Women's health is still a low priority in India, says UN in a report released on the eve of the World Poplulation Day.

Men, especially from the developing countries like India, among others, can play a greater role in preventing the high cases of maternal death, the report said.

More than half a million women die each year of pregnancy-related causes, 99 per cent of them in developing countries
and men can have a powerful and positive influence on the health and well-being of both the mother and child during
pregnancy, while preparing for the arrival of the baby and during the post natal acre for the mother and the baby,
said the United Nations Population Fund.

On the eve of the World Population Day and the 20th anniversary of the of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, UNFPA said on Tuesday that the focus is on 'Men as Partners in Maternal Health'.

In India, women's health remains a low priority, UNFPA said. Based on the National Family Health Survey III (2005-2006), the world body pointed out that 44 per cent of Indian girls were married before they reached the age of 18. It added, 16 per cent of girls in the age group 15-19 years were already mothers or expecting their first child and that pregnancy is the leading cause of mortality in this age group.

Girls under the age group of 15 are more at risk of dying during childbirth as compared to those above 20 years, it added.

The report mentioned that 49 per cent of Indian couples used modern contraception methods and 9 out of every 10 contraceptive users were women.  

"Reproductive health begins with gender equality. Men play crucial roles in reproductive health as clients, partners and agents of change. Men are involved in reproductive health efforts as advocates for needed services, as supporters of
their partner's needs and as recipients of services for their own health and well being," said a senior official with UNFPA.

UNFPA  pointed out that every minute, another woman dies in childbirth and for every woman who dies, 20 or more experience serious complications ranging from chronic infections to disabling injuries such as fistula and hence have a severe impact on women and their families quality of life.

"Husbands often make decisions about family planning, their wives economic activities and use of household resources, including for doctors' fees. The care and support of an informed husband improves pregnancy and childbirth outcomes and can mean the difference between life and death in cases of complications, when women need immediate medical care," added the official.

In countries like India custom prescribes that women should deliver at home and hence the approval of the husband and other men in the household may be needed to ensure that a women gets the skilled care and backup services she needs.

UNFPA said that men can support women's needs and choices during pregnancy and childbirth if they have the right information. Men need to be involved early in pregnancy to understand the health care needs and potential dangers
throughout pregnancy and childbirth.

Women and men can then plan together to ensure that preparations are made for skilled delivery during childbirth and potential complications, it said.

The report adds that in many developing countries, poverty and profound inequalities between men and women limit women's ability to plan their pregnancies.

At least 200 million women want to use family planning methods, but lack access to information and services or the support of their husband and communities, it said.

A large fraction of married men aged between 25-39 said that they have not discussed family planning with their partners. On a positive note, data also shows that more men are likely to approve contraceptive use than women think and that 90 per cent of men in 36 out of 46 countries surveyed knew about either one or more traditional and modern contraceptive methods.

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