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Published on 14 Jun 2010 | over 8 years ago

UNICEF and other international leaders in maternal health and child survival met 7-9 June in Washington, DC, to accelerate a global campaign aimed at reducing deaths of pregnant women and young children. Here is one in a series of related stories.

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KHARIAR, India, 11 June 2010 -- In India's Orissa state, where Ms. Patel lives, up to eight mothers die every day giving birth.

More than two-thirds of all maternal deaths in India occur in just a handful of impoverished states, including Orissa, and the inability to get medical care in time is one of the major factors contributing to this tragedy.

UNICEF and its partners are committed to avoiding these preventable maternal deaths. Some innovative schemes -- including a conditional cash transfer programme for women who deliver in health facilities -- are starting to improve the situation. But many experts believe that investment in midwifery is the key to revolutionizing India's maternal health landscape.

"What India needs now is a professional cadre of midwives," said UNICEF Maternal and Women's Health Specialist Kimberly Allen. When combined with referrals for complicated cases, she noted, midwives help more women deliver safely and with dignity.

"Pregnancy is not a disease," said Ms. Allen. "No woman should ever have to die giving birth."

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