As we sat with an expecting mothers’ group in Okhla slum in south Delhi with Save the Children India we learned that the government provides a countrywide incentive program for women to deliver their babies in a hospital as opposed to delivering at home. While monetary payment to give birth in an institution would help many poor Indian families particularly those who are migrant workers and slum dwellers it isn’t a foolproof way to entice expectant mothers into government hospitals.
Some still believe the traditional way of delivering at home with a midwife is far better than delivering in an institution. This goes back to a wide-held belief that many believe hospitals are intended solely for people who are sick and pregnancy isn’t seen as a sickness. Couple this with a healthcare system with great faults and many expectant Indian mothers opt for home deliveries despite the risk of losing their babies or even losing their own lives.
India, despite its soaring economic growth, spends less than 1% of its GDP on healthcare. In a country with 1.2 billion people this is certainly problematic especially as most healthcare is sought out at private clinics despite the high cost of services. Government run hospitals are in bad condition with routinely absentee doctors and a lack of medicines and medical supplies. Christopher Werth, an International Reporting fellow, recently reported for the BBC about India’s healthcare dilemma.