Mewat (Haryana): In an attempt to curb the maternal mortality, a national initiative guaranteeing free delivery, free medicines and diet for pregnant women in government health institutes was launched by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi here on Wednesday.

The free-delivery scheme is the initiative of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

"It is sad that 67,000 women die in childbirth every year and nine lakh children die in one month of birth. This scheme will give right to all pregnant women to have free delivery in
government health organisations," Gandhi said launching the programme here.

Gandhi said all medicines and medical tests and provision for blood will be free of cost and the government will also take care of the additional expenses if the patient is referred to a bigger hospital.

Officials said the scheme will also include the treatment of sick new borns till 30 days after their birth.

ASHA workers to help implementation

Gandhi said social health ASHA workers will help in implementing the scheme. "I hope all states will implement this scheme with full responsibility," she said, adding the scheme will be under the National Rural Health Mission which was started by UPA in 2005.

The initiative aims at guaranteeing free delivery, including caesarean operation for every pregnant woman accessing a government health institute besides provision of free transport from home to health unit, facilities in case of referral and drop back from health centre to home.

Earlier, announcing the project during a press briefing on two years of achievements of the ministry under him, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said that under it free medicines and free diet during stay in health centre will also be ensured.

India ranks 75th in  mothers'  care

In a study on 'best place to be a mother' released recently, India has been ranked 75th among 79 "less developed" countries, even below some of the poor African nations.

'The 2011 Mothers' Index' by international child rights NGO 'Save the Children' has seen India sliding two positions down from the 73rd spot in last year's study, bringing to fore the need for focus on critical areas like maternal and child mortality, say civil society activists.

Despite progress in reducing maternal mortality and child mortality, the report says that India still ranks as one out of 12 countries that account for two-thirds of under-five child deaths and maternal deaths in the world.

As per the survey, only 53 per cent of births in India are attended by skilled health personnel.

(Agencies)