South Asia

India announces big welfare scheme for pregnant mothers

Pregnant women in India
Image caption Pregnant women will be given financial assistance

The Indian government has launched a major welfare scheme for pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers.

They will be given about 12,000 rupees ($270) over a period of six months.

To be eligible for the scheme each woman will have to undergo regular health checks during her pregnancy and ensure vaccinations are up to date.

According to the UN, India has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world with 1,000 women dying every day because of pregnancy-related problems.

It says that a woman giving birth is 36 times more likely to die in India than her equivalent in a developed country.

Over a million women will benefit from the scheme which will cover most parts of the country and will cost the government nearly $223m.

To ensure that the money reaches eligible women the government has decided to transfer the cash directly into their bank accounts.

A recent assessment by the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies found that even though India is "making progress" in reducing maternal mortality, it is still a long way from achieving its target under the UN's Millennium Development Goals.

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