New Delhi -- To mark the first anniversary and the achievements that have been made since the Women Deliver conference in October 2007, a group of activists, policy makers, and grant making organizations met in New Delhi on 13th November 2008 to strengthen local partnerships for addressing high maternal mortality in India. The meeting was coordinated by Rema Nanda, Convening Chair for the group.
The purpose of the meeting was twofold: First to explore a role for Women Deliver in India and, second, to begin a consultation with a broad range of stakeholders already working to improve maternal health in India.
The discussion among 27 representatives from diverse organizations, including multi-lateral agencies and private foundations, raised thoughtful questions, clarified a range of issues, and concluded that there is a role for Women Deliver in India. Participants supported the idea of forming a Coalition for Women Deliver India as an inclusive effort to include all current and new players working towards MDG 5.
While India does not lack for ideas, funds or even policy commitments, there are major gaps in implementation. For example, the absence of skilled health workers at the community level and lack of medical personnel at the district level continue to undermine strong policy commitments to reduction of maternal deaths.
India's high maternal mortality levels are accompanied by very high rates of maternal morbidity that characterize the lives of Indian women. Maternal deaths impact families and communities at multiple levels – from immediately jeopardizing the life of the newborn and other children in the family to psycho-social trauma to eroding overall family well being.
Participants at the 13th November meeting group acknowledged that excellent work is already underway by the Indian Government as well as by civil society organizations in India, such as the White Ribbon Alliance's efforts to draw attention to maternal health and morbidity. Other topics that were highlighted at the meeting included the need for comprehensive data about the effectiveness and impact of national schemes to improve maternal health; lack of understanding of the consequences of high levels of morbidity and therefore a weak response to addressing it; the complexities surrounding delivery of high quality facility-based services in resource-poor settings; and a lack of accountability for maternal deaths at any level and in any office or agency. The group also discussed that the absence of easily accessible checkups and medical care continues to pose serious challenges.
On the other hand there is plenty of evidence of successful intervention models in reducing maternal mortality, but information is often not in the public domain and therefore difficult to access.
To strengthen national advocacy the group proposed that Women Deliver India play the following roles:
- Serve as neutral, inclusive pan-India entity to convene diverse groups working in maternal health for regular information sharing.
- Host the creation of public virtual domain to bring together information at policy, research, and program levels to provide a one-stop-shop on maternal health.
- Create a set of India-specific core messages and encourage dissemination of common materials to underscore one message many voices approach.
- Build advocacy platforms across all sectors, especially to link development sector work with media and industry.
As next steps Women Deliver India will develop an action plan towards 2015, including the participation and support to ICPD + 15, the fifteen year anniversary of the Cairo Program of Action.
For any further information or questions, please contact Rema Nanda, Convening Chair for the Coalition for Women Deliver India to firstname.lastname@example.org