Launched April 22, 2010
Despite rapid economic growth, India remains a land of great disparity. The status of the country's maternal health, which is affected by region, income, education, caste and religion, reflects the nation's socio-economic diversity.
This project assesses India's efforts to improve its maternal health and explore why Assam, a northeastern state known for its beauty yet plagued by high levels of poverty, has the nation's highest maternal mortality rate. Reporter Hanna Ingber Win travels with boat clinics along the Brahmaputra River to visit remote villages that do not have electricity, toilets or roads, let alone health services.
In Muslim island villages, families marry off their daughters as young as 12 years old, taking them out of school, isolating them from their support services and increasing the likelihood of domestic violence and high fertility rates. Girls under the age of 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than those in their 20s. In tribal villages on the other end of the river, impoverished families have been displaced from their homes by land erosion time and again.
These geographically and socially isolated island families depend on boats to access services. If the water levels are too high or low, if night falls or if a boat needs repair, no pregnancy or postpartum emergency can overcome the dictates of the river. The mothers must wait. But not all have the luxury of time.