Top health officials said that India still lags behind in curbing the maternal and infant mortality with a woman dying every five minutes due to childbirth complications.
"Maternal health is the foundation of all health," Health Secretary P.K. Hota told a function organised here Monday on the eve of Safe Motherhood Day.
Addressing a gatheing that included several MPs and Delhi Health Minister Yoganand Shastri, Hota said it was vital for political leaders and administrators to ensure proper functioning of healthcare centres.
"Some of the things that have to be ensured is proper nutrition during adolescence, spacing of pregnancy which should happen only at the right age, and medical care during pregnancy and ante-natal care," he said.
Hota said it was not the lack of resources and infrastructure but the lack of implementation by administrators at the districts and the traditional view that childbirth could easily take place at home that was responsible for the "unacceptably high" maternal and infant mortality rate in India.
The health ministry had prepared guidelines for facilitating round the clock deliveries and newborn care under the rural healthcare scheme with the aim of helping states to operationalise at least 50 percent of primary health centres as 24-hour functional units in a phased manner, he said.
Plans are also afoot to emulate the success of Bangladesh in deploying trained nurses for deliveries in rural areas.
"Institutional deliveries is the key to safe motherhood," said C. Adona of UNICEF, which too has issued a guide for better care of pregnant women and ante-natal care.
To persuade and educate women in rural areas in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh to go for pre-natal and post-natal care at primarily health centres, UNICEF will launch an awareness campaign and help improve facilities through a training programme, Adona said.