India will not meet a key United Nations development goal to cut its "shocking" maternal death rate 75 percent by 2015 at its current pace, a UN health advisor said Monday.
About 100,000 women die in childbirth in India each year, or one every five minutes.
"In India, more than 300 maternal deaths occur for every 100,000 live births," Paul Hunt, UN special rapporteur on health rights, told reporters Monday after visiting two of India's worst states for maternal deaths.
"For a middle-income country of its status and stature, the rate of maternal deaths in India is shocking."
Several of India's poorer neighbours do better, including civil war-torn Sri Lanka, where 56 women die for every 100,000 live births.
"At the present rate, neither India nor any of its states will reach their maternal mortality targets for 2015 arising from the millennium development goals," he said.
Among the main causes for maternal deaths -- defined as death during pregnancy or up to 42 days after the end of pregnancy -- was lack of access to emergency care due to a severe shortage of health care workers, he said.
More than one in five mothers also does not receives prenatal care, according to official Indian figures.
"There is a massive crippling crisis in India's health workforce," Hunt said. "In many parts of the country, life-saving care is unavailable to women giving birth."
Hunt, who urged private medical professionals to work one day a month in public clinics, will submit a final report on his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in 2008.