Britain Wednesday launched a 252 million pounds (Rs.21.94 million) initiative to support India's reproductive and child health programme aimed at saving one million lives every year.
The 252 million pound fund being provided through the Department for International Development (DFID) is to be Britain's single biggest response to arrest India's high infant and maternal mortality rates.
The funds will be spent over five years in support of the second phase of the Indian government's nationwide Reproductive and Child Health Programme, Hilary Benn, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development, announced here.
"The birth of a child ought to be a joyful experience but for more than 100,000 women in India giving birth means death for them and possibly their baby as well. Every year more than two million Indian children will die before they reach their fifth birthday," said Benn.
"The tragedy is that these deaths could so easily be prevented if mothers going into labour had the support of a skilled midwife and children were properly immunised against killers such as measles and tetanus."
Of the estimated 530,000 mothers who die each year while giving birth, one in five are in India. Similarly, of over 10 million children who die before the age of five every year, one in four of these deaths occur in India, with 1.2 million infants dying within a month of their birth.
The funds to be provided by DFID will include 245 million pounds in the form of financial aid and 7 million pounds as technical co-operation.
The DFID will begin to disburse the first instalment of 10 million pounds later this year.
The new programme will seek to address concerns about procurement irregularities that marked the first phase of the Reproductive and Child Health Programme in which DFID had not participated.