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Lives sacrificed: Women and health in South Asia

By Deepti Priya Mehrotra

, by Infochange

A new World Bank report looks at the state of reproductive health of poor women in five countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — and makes a case for decentralised planning, delivery and expansion of health services, with a clear focus on enhancing inclusion

‘Sparing Lives: Better Reproductive Health for Poor Women in South Asia’, by Meera Chatterjee, Ruth Levine, Nirmala Murthy and Shreelata Rao-Seshadri, the World Bank, MacMillan, 2008

This World Bank report, released on March 5, 2009, investigates the state of reproductive health of poor women in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It also makes a case for increasingly decentralised planning, delivery and expansion of health services, with a clear focus on enhancing inclusion.

The report highlights a number of significant concerns. Sri Lanka, despite ongoing conflict, fares remarkably better than the other four countries in terms of maternal mortality, pregnancy and delivery care, infant weight and death rates, contraceptive acceptance and fertility rates. This is attributable to a high commitment to health on the part of successive governments. With decentralised planning the cornerstone of health delivery, services are provided at all levels, as an integrated package. The report notes that Sri Lanka’s relative success is “not because it spends more per capita, but because it uses resources more efficiently and equitably… Low unit costs in Sri Lanka contribute to high reproductive health access…” Read more

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