One of the women of Nidanpur writing a petition to the Chief Minister and other health officials asking for improved child birth facilities.
Nebi Bai, a young mother, was seven months pregnant when she suddenly developed acute stomach cramps. A resident of a tribal hamlet Nidanpur in Madhya Pradesh, Nebi Bai was taken to Chanderi Community Health Centre, around 20 kilometers away.
The medical staff administered her glucose intravenously but then left the Center in a few hours. Without medical attention, Nebi Bai’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Finally, her helpless husband Kapoora, acting on the advice of a ward boy, decided to take her back to the village. She did not survive the journey home.
Nebi Bai’s is not an isolated case. Madhya Pradesh has a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of about 379 per 100,000 child births, among the highest in the country, as per the National Family Health Survey-III.
Over 25 women die daily in the state as a result of pregnancy related complications states a recent survey by Jan Adhikar Manch (MP JAM), a forum of civil society organizations committed to reducing the MMR in the state.
The state government has started several schemes including the Janani Suraksha Yojana, Vijaye Raje Janani Beema Kalyan Yojana and Janani Express Yojana to aid maternal health and institutionalize childbirth. Government figures show that MMR has reduced from 498 to 379 per 100,000 child births since 1998.
However, the situation remains grim. "Despite efforts by the government, as many as 856,000 childbirths in MP in 2006-07 occurred at homes. "There is certainly an increase in efforts to make childbirth safer for women. But the overall situation in health centers in terms of infrastructure and trained help is still a big challenge,” says Sachin Jain, president of Vikas Samvad, an NGO working towards reducing MMR.
A three year old initiative of MP JAM called "Save Our Mothers" brought together several NGOs, community based organizations, and UNICEF in 16 districts of MP, to spread awareness on maternal health among women, policy makers and local media.
“An approximate 80 percent of the women in the state are anemic and 40 out of every 100 women in the state have complicated pregnancy and difficult delivery,” says Nadita Chibber, one of the authors of the survey report.
"The advocacy campaigns carried out by civil society on the issue of MMR has resulted in a series of public meetings, workshops and documentation all over the state," says Anil Gulati, communication officer with UNICEF.
Today, scores of public rallies on safe motherhood are held all over the state. Prominent local newspapers give ample space to the issue of MMR. Activists use hoardings, work shops, meetings, surveys, and even blogs to spread their message.
The new awareness is probably the reason why Nebi Bai's fellow villagers, did not allow her death to go unnoticed. They lodged a complaint against the Medical Officer of the Center and protested to the District Collector and the Chief Minister's office.
The villagers of Nidanpur continue to be actively involved in the safe motherhood campaign through petitions, pubic meetings and other means, just like the residents of many other such villages and small towns in the state.