Project ĀSMĀN, a major healthcare initiative aimed at reducing infant, neonatal and maternal mortality in India, was launched on November 3, 2015 by a consortium of leading private and development sector partners. The initiative is an alliance between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MSD India (through its MSD for Mothers programme), Reliance Foundation, Tata Trusts and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
It is important to note that India is the world's second most populated country and observes over 30 million pregnancies every year. Of this, 27 million women reach the stage of delivery and over 56,000 mothers die during or within 48 hours of delivery. The first 48 hours are equally critical for the child, as 50 percent of neonatal deaths happen in the first 48 hours. Presently, the states most acutely affected by concerns of Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Commenting on the partnership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with ĀSMĀN, Mr Alkesh Wadhwani, Deputy Director, Integrated Delivery, India, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, "The foundation is deeply committed to improving maternal and child health in India. We believe that the health of mothers and children merits particular attention, given India's share of the overall burden of maternal and child mortality, and we have made it the focus of our work in India. We decided to partner with ĀSMĀN because we strongly believe the combined efforts of our alliance will help significantly advance our collective commitment of expanding access to maternal and child health in India and help ensure that women and children not only survive but thrive. Through this alliance, our foundation will continue its commitment of partnering the government in achieving its ambitious goals to improve women and child health and prioritise equitable growth."
ASMAN was jointly unveiled by Mr Alkesh Wadhwani, deputy director, Integrated Delivery, India, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Kenneth C Frazier, chairman and CEO, MSD, Ms Nita Ambani, founder and chairperson, Reliance Foundation, Mr R K Krishna Kumar, Trustee - Tata Trusts, and Ambassador Jonathan Addleton, mission director, USAID/India, at a special event in the presence of Ms Maneka Gandhi, minister for Women and Child Development, Government of India, and Dr Jagdish Prasad, Director General Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
Project ĀSMĀN will work towards facilitating the availability of quality healthcare under the five pillars of the Government of India's Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child Health and Adolescent Health Program (RMNCH+A). Committed to reducing infant, neonatal and maternal mortality rates in India, the ĀSMĀN programme brings together the knowledge and expertise of each partner to create customised solutions for addressing state-specific requirements. In line with the government's agenda of reducing mortality rates, this first-of-a-kind alliance will support the introduction and implementation of high impact interventions at the health facility level.