Zero maternal death in two former war-torn districts of Sri Lanka

Efforts on to reduce nation's MMR to 24 per 100,000 live births by 2015

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Monday 20 May 2013

Two districts of Sri Lanka's Northern Province, torn by civil war not so long ago, have received attention for a rare achievement. Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu have not witnessed a single maternal death in the past two years. This was revealed at a meeting held recently in Colombo. The province was the hot bed of a three-decade-long war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan state which ended in 2009.

No woman has died in child birth since 2011 in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts of the province, said Chithramalee de Silva, deputy director of Family Health Bureau of Sri Lanka. The districts noted high incidence of maternal mortality ratio till recently.

In 1991, MMR of Kilinochchi was 32.8 per 100,000 live births. Corresponding figure for Mullaitivu was 86.9. The national average was 42.3.
According to Family Health Bureau, in 2006, Kilinochchi had the highest MMR in the country at 102.8 against the national average of 39.3. The bureau does not have data for Mullaitivu for the same year. But government statistics put MMR for Mullaitivu at 42.3.

Barring the troubled areas, the country reduced its MMR substantially by investing in health and providing free education. The institution of midwifery was strengthened, which increased institutional delivery as well as safe deliveries at home. 

Deputy director de Silva said that after the war was over, the government started sending gyneacologists and other doctors to the Northern Province, specially to reduce MMR. United Nations also runs a similar programme. 

Efforts are on to reduce MMR to 24 per 100,000 live births by 2015, which is the millennium development goal target for Sri Lanka. The 2010 national average of MMR for Sri Lanka was 31 per 100,000 live births, according to CIA World Factbook.

"It was a relatively easy feat for Mullaitivu as the number of people is small. The district is sparsely populated," said de Silva. With 2517 sq. km of land, population density of Mullaitivu is just 87.52 per sq km. Kilinochchi has 1,237 sq km land with a population density of 157.65.

The Human Development Report 2013, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), also placed Sri Lanka high in the Human Development Index. HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries in four tiers of human development. It was ranked of 92 while India was ranked 136 along with Equatorial Guinea among 187 countries


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