GUWAHATI, July 23 - Various government interventions meant to combat anaemia are insufficient and unsuccessful in reaching the women they are intended to serve and women in tea gardens of the State face multiple barriers to combating the disease and accessing adequate maternal health care, according to a new report released today by NGO Nazdeek.
The current maternal mortality rate in Assam is 237 against the all India average of 130, according to latest figures released in June last. It is said that 77 per cent of the cases are reported in the TEs.
�There are various health services mandated by law to combat anaemia and decrease maternal mortality, but they are not reaching women on the ground. Free nutritional supplements that are vital to women during pregnancy, and owed to them under a government scheme, are not being disbursed to pregnant women across the whole State. The poor access to health and nutrition is further exacerbated by tea plantation workers� poor wages and exploitative working conditions,� says Jayshree Satpute, co-founder of Nazdeek and human rights lawyer.
Nazdeek�s report, �A Matter of Life and Death: Surviving Childbirth on Assam�s Tea Plantations,� sheds light on the multiple gaps in the implementation of government health interventions meant to decrease anaemia and maternal mortality on tea plantations in Assam � where the majority of tea workers are Adivasi. These women face multiple layers of oppression and exploitation and are unable to realise their right to safe motherhood.
�Major gaps exist in securing ambulances for women during pregnancy. In some cases, the ambulance takes so long to reach a woman�s home, that she delivers the baby while she�s waiting,� says Mary Surin Tete, a member of the central body of the All Adivasi Women�s Association of Assam (AAWAA).
There are a number of schemes like Mamoni, Majoni and even the Central government�s Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, but the tea garden women are not getting the benefit of a single scheme even though in RTI replies the government says the programmes are continuing, the NGO said.
Key findings of the report show that there is poor and inaccurate understanding of anaemia and its causes among many health workers and government officials; availability of free nutritional supplements at anganwadi centres is sporadic and insufficient due to major gaps in funding disbursement; and the existing blood procurement system erects barriers to women�s health and negatively affects poorer patients.
�The system for accessing blood transfusions in Assam discriminates against low-income women who cannot always bring someone to provide replacement blood. There is an urgent need for more resources to be contributed to blood banks across the State and for a heavier investment in blood donation programmes,� says Simran Sachdev, the author and lead researcher of the report. �Inadequate maternal health care is literally killing women and children in tea plantations across the State.�
The report provides recommendations for government officials on how to strengthen services aimed at reducing anaemia and maternal mortality. The sample survey was carried out in eight gardens of four districts � Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Kokrajhar and Sonitpur.