It is hard to believe that the state, mostly in the news for reports of armed conflicts, has been achieving the country’s lowest infant mortality rate (IMR) consecutively for the last three years — standing tall amidst other conventionally well-equipped states. According to the health ministry report, Manipur’s IMR stands at nine deaths per 1000 live births. The national IMR, according to the latest available data, is 43 deaths per 1000 births. The figure in neighbouring Assam is 62. The key mantras behind the state’s success in this regard, according to officials, are better medical facilities, proper and effective immunization, dedicated doctors and health workers, high health consciousness, a tremendous increase in institutional deliveries and women empowerment.
“We have been bagging awards for having the lowest infant mortality rate for three consecutive years from the central health ministry,” Manipur family welfare director K Rajo Singh said. “The society in general and pregnant women and their families in particular are very health conscious. Pregnant women never miss the antenatal health checkup in all trimesters,” he said. He also spoke on the role of the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) in spreading health awareness among local communities. Saying there are 4009 such local women health workers who are trained regularly, Rajo said these women facilitate tests before pregnancy, institutional deliveries and proper childcare. Centrally sponsored schemes like the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSK) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK) and standing laws like the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PC & PNDT) Act and Rules also share the credit in bringing the IMR down, Rajo said.
State family welfare joint director Th Arunkumar said the PN & PNDT Act and Rules was fully implemented in the state in 2003 with setting up of different implementing bodies like the state supervisory board, state advisory committee and the state appropriate authority. 115 ultrasound machines have so far been registered under this programme in both government and private hospitals, he said. “The other aspect is that indigenous people of the state are genetically strong,” said Arunkumar.
According to social activists, women in the state possess a natural instinct of taking care of themselves during pregnancy in terms of food intake and daily chores. According to the state health department’s official record, the state saw a massive decrease in cases of TB, malaria and leprosy. There have also been an increase in the number of health units, doctors, nurses, number of beds in both government and private hospitals and the health plan budget in the state.