At least 61 pregnant women and 877 newborns have died in Meghalaya since April as resources were directed toward battling the spread of the coronavirus, PTI reported on Saturday. These fatalities, from April to July, were due to diseases other than the coronavirus.

Director of Health Services Aman War said newborn deaths occurred due to lack of medical attention, care, pneumonia and birth asphyxia. “It is a matter of concern that the infant and maternal mortality rate has risen sharply as the entire state health machinery is diverted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic,” War told reporters. “The state has an infant mortality rate of 34 deaths per 1000 live births and pneumonia is the major cause of deaths of babies at birth even as birth asphyxia is another cause.”

War added that most women died because they were not admitted to hospitals or health centres for institutional delivery. He also urged all pregnant women to register with the nearest health centre so that the department is able to check on their well being and to allow healthcare workers to reach out to them in case they need help and to prevent deaths.

The director of health services said the state government has told hospitals and health centres that they should not refuse to admit pregnant women if they come from containment zones. “More people have died due to other disease and not coronavirus,” War said. “At least 877 newborns have died at birth and 61 women during childbirth during the period from April to July this year.”

The National Commission for Women has written to state Chief Secretary MS Rao over the deaths and sought feedback. “It is a matter of serious concern and the commission has taken note of the lapse by the hospital at the time when the government of India is emphasising for implementation of institutional delivery mechanism across the nation,” the commission’s chief Rekha Sharma said in the letter.

Meghalaya’s capital Shillong has 12 big hospitals, including six private ones. The state has a total of 28 community health centres and 139 public health centres. Besides this, there is a government-run civil hospital in each of the 11 district headquarters.

Data released by the National Health Mission has shown large scale disruption in the routine health services since the coronavirus pandemic began, CNBC-TV18 reported. There has been a 64% drop in child immunisation, a 50% drop in BCG vaccinations and a 39% drop in oral polio drops. The data, on the utilisation of health services in April to June, was obtained by tracking more than 2,00,000 health facilities across all districts, primarily public centres as well as some private centres.