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Poor women and healthcare in South Asia

Apr 07, 2009

World Bank releases a report: Sparing Lives: Better reproductive health for poor women in South Asia. It highlights the enormous challenges faced in addressing inequalities in reproductive health and the need to break away from the cycle of poverty to achieve the MDGs.

Sparing Lives: Better reproductive health for poor women

Publisher: World Bank

South Asia witnesses high rates of undernutrition, beginning with low birth weight among one-third of infants due to chronic or acute undernourishment or infections among their mothers. Many women bear unwanted child because of poor access to contraception.

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At least four million unsafe abortions take place in the region causing 10 to 20% of the region’s maternal deaths. The health systems are being stretched to deal simultaneously with diseases commonly associated with poverty and a young and growing population.

The overall purpose of this review is to bring attention to the opportunities that five countries in the region – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – have to strengthen and expand interventions to improve the reproductive health of poor women.

This report calls for an integration of reproductive health services and decentralised planning to target poor geographic areas and finding innovative ways of financing reproductive health.

The specified objectives mentioned are:

  • To provide an accurate picture of the current status of women’s reproductive health, the use of reproductive health services and identify the improvements required to increase their effectiveness
  • To elucidate individual and household characteristics that affect reproductive health status,
  • To describe a decentralised action planning that can be used widely in all five countries to improve reproductive health service delivery and outcomes,
  • To strengthen the case for investing in poor women’s reproductive health by demonstrating the links between poverty, inequality, reproductive health care and expenditure.

Recommendations that have been brought forward are:

  • Provide a single window for reproductive health services
  • Step up antenatal care and skilled birth attendance
  • Train and equip more female health personnel
  • Increase focus on young adolescents
  • Improve nutrition, especially for girls
  • Emphasise secondary education for girls and improve the status of women
  • Decentralise effectively, promote action-oriented planning
    Spend more and spend it efficiently
Source : World Bank
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