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Catastrophic Maternal Healthcare expenses push 47 percent Mothers in India into Poverty: Researchers

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May 22, 2017: Catastrophic maternal healthcare expenses push 46.6 per cent mothers in India into poverty — with the illiterate being especially susceptible — according to a December 2016 study by researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-R). The expenses include childbirth, antenatal care and postnatal care expenses.

Catastrophic expenditure is greater than or equal to 40 percent of a household’s non-subsistence income, i.e. income available after basic needs have been met, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The threshold of 40 per cent can differ according to countries, said the WHO; the 2016 study has analyzed the data at two thresholds: 10 and 40 per cent.

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As many as 63 per cent households nationwide had a catastrophic maternal health expenditure of 40 per cent, the study — which analysed data from the National Sample Survey Office — found. Among states and Union territories (UTs), 65.7 per cent households (among those where a woman had delivered) in Telangana were pushed into poverty — more than any other state/UT — due to childbearing expenses, followed by Chhattisgarh (53.7 per cent) and Puducherry (53.4 per cent).

In the 10 years to 2014, out-of-pocket (OOP) health spending has pushed 50.6 million people back into poverty.

Households where the mothers were illiterate were the most affected, with 61 per cent of them being pushed into poverty –despite having the lowest maternal health OOP expenditure at Rs 3,600 — compared to 36.7 per cent of households where women were graduates and above, who had an OOP expenditure of Rs 19,250.

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More illiterate women prefer public hospitals for delivery in both rural (79.2 per cent) and urban areas (67.7 per cent), which possibly explains their low OOP.

Among women of different social groups, women belonging to scheduled tribes (STs) had the least maternal OOP expenditure at Rs 2,962, but 71.5 per cent of them were pushed into poverty. As many as 85 per cent ST women in rural areas delivered in public hospitals — more than any other social group.

The study holds relevance in the context of the central government announcement on May 18, 2017, that it is revising the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (Maternity Benefit Programme), announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 31, 2016, by restricting the scheme to firstborns instead of “first two live births” as applicable earlier.

The programme aims to give Rs 6,000 to pregnant women for childbearing expenses. The scheme saw an increase of 226 per cent in allocation in the 2017-18 budget from Rs 634 crore to Rs 2,700 crore. However, the government had estimated that the annual requirement for the maternity benefit scheme would be Rs 14,512 crore, according to a report in The Indian Express.

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The 2016 study revealed that, on average, a woman incurred an OOP expenditure of Rs 8,543 on childbearing. There were huge variations among states — from Rs 2,801 in Uttarakhand to Rs 15,433 in Telangana.

“The most vulnerable women who are trying to reach out for the government aid won’t be able to get it,” Tania Sheshadri, an independent community health researcher who works with rural women in Karnataka, was recently quoted as saying in news reports.

“In most parts of the country, there is a two-child norm and a scheme like this will not benefit most women. The government should concentrate on quality care for pregnant women and make available the benefits to every woman who reaches a government health care centre.”

A limitation of the 2016 study is that it does not consider the benefits of Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY, motherhood protection scheme), a 12-year-old government programme focused specially on 10 states with low rates of institutional delivery — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Rajasthan, Odisha, and Jammu and Kashmir — termed as low-performing states (LPS).

Under the programme, pregnant women in rural areas who live below the poverty line are to be given cash assistance — Rs 700 in high performing states and Rs 1,400 in LPS — irrespective of the mother’s age and number of children so that they opt for birth in a government or accredited private health facility.

The scheme has failed to cover the poorest women, according to a 2014 analysis of JSY data by researchers from Georgetown University. As many as 60 per cent women in Uttar Pradesh said they had to pay for certain public maternal health services, according to an assessment of JSY conducted by United Nations Population Fund in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in 2012. (IANS/IndiaSpend)

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World Hunger To Rise Due To Climate Change: WFP

The number of people suffering from hunger because of climate change-induced drought is rising particularly in Africa and Latin America.

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Malnourished and displaced Somali children sit in a tent in their camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. VOA

The World Food Program warns climate change will have a devastating impact on agriculture and the ability of people to feed themselves. The WFP forecasts a huge increase in worldwide hunger unless action is taken to slow global warming.

The WFP warns progress in reducing global hunger is under threat by conflict and the increase in climate disasters. For the first time in several decades, the WFP reports the number of people suffering from chronic food shortages has risen.

This year, it says, 821 million people went to bed hungry, 11 million more than the previous year.

World Hunger, WFP
Gatdin Bol, 65, who fled fighting and now survives by eating fruit from the trees, sits under a tree in the town of Kandak, South Sudan. VOA

Gernot Laganda, WFP’s chief of Climate and Disaster Risk Reduction, notes the number of climate disasters has more than doubled since the early 1990s. He says extreme weather events are driving more people to flee their homes, leading to more hunger.

He told VOA the situation will get much worse as global temperatures rise.

“We are projecting that with a two-degree warmer world, we will have around 189 million people in a status of food insecurity more than today. And, if it is a four-degrees warmer world, which is possible if no action is taken, we are looking beyond one billion more. So, there is a very, very strong argument for early and decisive climate action,” said Laganda.

World Hunger, WFP
Faduma Hussein Yagoub, a polio sufferer, came with her family to Dadaab from Somalia. Her husband and two of her five young children died of hunger on the way. Despite the dangers thousands of refugees every week are making the journey, walking for weeks across the desert and braving attacks by armed robbers and wild animals:

Data from this year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report by six leading U.N. agencies show the bulk of losses and damages in food systems are due to drought and most of these disastrous events occur in Africa.

Also Read: Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Laganda says the number of people suffering from hunger because of climate change-induced drought is rising particularly in Africa and Latin America. He notes that until recently progress in Asia had led to a reduction in world hunger, but that trend has slowed markedly. (VOA)