Deaths of pregnant women and 877 newborns: Meghalaya Assembly panel recommends survey


By Nirendra Dev

Sep 5, 2020

New Delhi/Shillong: The deaths of 61 pregnant women and 877 newborns in Meghalaya during the last four months of Covid19 and Lockdown has snowballed into a major issue with an Assembly panel directing the state government to act quickly to address the problem.

Things are turning worse for pregnant women in the containment zone areas.

“The situation has become very critical. These deaths are certainly a matter of deep concern. Recently a number of such cases have been reported from Shillong. If this is happening in Shillong city, you can imagine what’s happening elsewhere,” Mazel Ampareen Lyngdoh, chairperson of the Assembly Committee for Empowerment of Women, told this journalist over the phone from Shillong.

“Therefore, the first thing the state government needs to do is to ensure that women safety is put on high priority, particularly for pregnant women. They should get into action mode and conduct a survey very urgently and immediately make sure that they have a correct registry of all pregnant women who will require state government’s attention,” the Congress legislator said.

As many as 877 newborn children and 61 pregnant women died in the northeastern state of Meghalaya due to lack of essential medical services, as was reported on this website.

The state authorities have earlier said the unfortunate fatalities could not be attributed to mere Covid19 and related matters only.

More than 53-54 percent of pregnant women are anaemic in the state with the figure going up to nearly 60 percent for women between the age of 15-49 years in rural areas.

State Health Secretary, Sampath Kumar, also has said there were findings that women approach health centres with multiple pregnancies without adequate birth spacing, teenage pregnancies and with severe anaemia.

The Assembly panel on Empowerment of Women had summoned the Director of Health Services recently and directed that the state government should prepare a satisfactory response and take urgent steps to put a check on this by September 15.

“We don’t even know what we are looking at….It is going to become a big problem for the state,” the MLA said.

A data comparison for April to July, 2019, was done against the same period this year, and it was found that the number of maternal and infant deaths is ‘comparatively the same’, says a state Health Department official.

The state government has decided to work on a multi-pronged strategy to approach this issue from different dimensions – clinical management, public health action, improved system and importantly the socio cultural dimension.

Therefore, officials say the Health department is undertaking weekly Mother Child Health review meetings, rigorous sensitisation exercises with active participation from grassroot healthcare workers.

Answering questions, Ms Lyngdoh said the issue of unreporting could be there especially from rural areas, but went on to add, “We are not looking at this as of now”.

“The government should immediately do a survey and keep the data ready of pregnant women so that they are attended to,” she said adding in some cases the pregnant patients have to move from pillar to post before they get admission for delivery and treatment. “In Shillong, we had cases of patients asked ‘please go for Covid test’…..and in the process in some cases, the date(s) of delivery crossed and in a few cases babies were also still born”.

Ms Lyngdoh said, “The fact that the government has not been able to take care of the citizens is very unfortunate”.

Citing one illustration, she said, “One mother had come from a containment zone in Shillong and hence she was delayed and ultimately deprived of medical attention. Her ordeal went on for 72 hours, as the local hospitals it seems kept on postponing her treatment telling her to for Covid19 test”.

—India News Stream