Amidst COVID-19, when the situation in India is getting severe day by day, our public health care system seems to have come under considerable scrutiny for the several loopholes that have surfaced. While most of the hospitals are converted into COVID care centres, people are barely getting admitted to the hospitals for other health-related problems. The most distressed are the low-income earners and within this group, women are the worst affected ones. One of the important issues that women are facing during this pandemic is the lack of access to safe and adequate health facilities in their pregnancy and child-rearing days.
Women in our country face huge challenges before and after the birth of the child, for instance, insufficiency of the public health care system, difficulty in access to the local hospital, lack of access to clean water and sanitation and not having a proper diet due to poor socio-economic conditions. Also, women who work as daily-wage labourers have to do a lot of labour in their jobs apart from daily household chores during pregnancy and child-rearing days. Especially in urban slums and unauthorised colonies, they are more vulnerable to these problems. In India, around 65 million people live in the slum areas and the majority of this population are residing in the metropolitan cities. In Delhi, where I live, a large population of women reside in slums and unauthorised colonies where adequate facilities are not available for them to live safely in their pregnancy days. They find it difficult to access even the most basic facilities such as drinking water and sanitation.
According to a survey, nearly 63 per cent of Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in India do not have the facility to conduct operations, and in almost 29 per cent of the Centres, labour rooms are not present. Due to such deplorable conditions of PHCs, a majority of the population in urban and rural areas prefer private health care centres for inpatient care. However, the people belonging to the poor socio-economic group who cannot afford private healthcare provisions have to struggle a lot to get basic healthcare. Despite the various efforts of the government, India ranks 145th in the global Healthcare Access and Quality Index, lagging behind even some of our neighbouring countries like Bangladesh & Sri Lanka.
Although as a country we are working towards the improvement of health care services, more work is needed to be done in order to guarantee good health and safety to every expectant mother. A woman goes through many physiological changes during pregnancy and is also vulnerable to emotional stress. Therefore, apart from the safe delivery of the child, antenatal and postpartum care are vital for better monitoring of the health of the mother and child. It is for these reasons that there is a need to have proper women healthcare Centres where professional health workers are adequately equipped with training, skill and appropriate knowledge in providing obstetrical care. Furthermore, the health budget of our country should be increased so that more emphasis can be given to public health, especially in areas that are more vulnerable. We have to improve our PHCs with better infrastructure so that quality health and other related services can be easily available even in the remotest areas of the country. The government should also maintain better co-ordination with Non-governmental Organisations which are working hard to educate and provide services in rural and urban areas.
Hope to have an India where safe motherhood is not a distant dream for many.