Institute for Social and Economic Change

Working Paper: 323

Child and Maternal Health and Nutrition in South Asia – Lessons for India

Pavithra Rajan
Jonathan Gangbar
K Gayithri



South Asia has been characterized by its minimal progress in the areas of child and maternal health and nutrition in comparison to other regions in the world. The case of India is especially enigmatic as there has been a lack of improvement in its performance in this area since the 1990s. Furthermore, compared to other countries in South Asia such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal, India’s progress towards the achievement of its Millennium Development Goals (1, 4 and 5 specifically) is quite concerning. Despite having their own “local” problems, Bangladesh and Nepal have achieved or nearly achieved many of their MDG targets of optimal maternal and child health and nutrition and Sri Lanka is already in its post-MDG phase. However, as far as India is concerned, the achievement of MDGs seems way off target. The comparative performance of these countries relative to India is of particular interest because they have often been able to realize substantial improvements in the area of child and maternal health and nutrition with more pressing resource constraints. Hence it will be of interest to compare India to other countries in the South Asian region and examine the individual country experiences of addressing child and maternal health and nutrition. A major reason for the lack of progress in India could be attributed to issues of poor governance – lack of political will, divergence of effort, and the lack of a transparent dedicated health system that is pro-child and maternal health and nutrition. Further research is required to examine the state of child and maternal health and nutrition from a sub-national perspective in India and to examine how resources are being allocated and utilized to address the issues that persist in relation to this field.

Working Papers