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Those identified as having high-risk pregnancies are given specialist care.

Once the child is born, he or she is given his own column in a new register - the Birth and Immunisation Register.

Registers for life Painstaking, accurate data-gathering has proved critical to Sri Lanka's healthcare successes, and Ari and the other midwives devote much of their time to record keeping. Young couples are entered into the Eligible Family Register.

In theory at least, cohabiting couples, and women between the ages of 15 and 49 are also included in this list.

In 1955, less than a decade after Sri Lanka celebrated its independence, some 405 women died for every 100,000 live births. Compare this with the island's closest neighbours: in India, 189 women died for every 100,000 live births in 2013, in Nepal, it was 291 that same year, while in Bangladesh it was 201.

"Sri Lanka represents a unique and inspiring success story in terms of the country's achievements in maternal health," says Ana Langer, the d She attributes the steady decline of maternal mortality over the past 60 years to factors such as consistent political will, universal health coverage, skilled birth attendance at 97 percent of deliveries and "the quality of care offered by the trained midwives, who are distributed across the country ensuring women's access to it".

Ajith's mother Kumari Manel shares her daughter-in-law's relief at Ari's arrival.

Last modified 28-Oct-2018 02:15