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Infant mortality rate India's enduring shame

Last updated: 05 October, 2009
New Delhi: 1:13 IST

The economic boom being experienced by India masks a shameful failure to control a shocking rate of infant deaths among the countrys poorest.

Over 400,000 newborns die within the first 24 hours of their birth every year, the highest anywhere in the world, a study by an international non-government organisation, ‘Save the Children’, has declared.

According to the NGO, despite a decade of rapid economic growth, India’s record on child mortality at 72 per 1,000 live births is worse than that of neighbouring Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Two million children under five years of age die—one every 15 seconds—each year in India, also the highest anywhere in the world, it said. Of these more than half die in the first month of their birth.

Moreover, one-third of all malnourished children live in India, 46 per cent of children under three are underweight in the country, and over two-thirds of infants die within the very first month of their birth. Ninety per cent of these deaths occur due to easily preventable causes like pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Chances of survival


The report’s findings say that a child’s chances of survival varies enormously simply because it is born in one state rather than the other. For instance, the infant mortality rate in Orissa is 96 per 1,000 live births, while in Kerala it is only 14 per 1,000.

The most disturbing element about this development indicator is that low-cost interventions could reduce neonatal mortality by up to 70 per cent if provided universally, which obviously is not happening in India, if one goes by the findings of the study. Incidentally, India ranks 171 out of 175 countries in public health spending.

“In nearly all cases, the infections and conditions that are the direct causes of death within the first 28 days of a child’s life are preventable and treatable with proven low-cost interventions,” says ‘Save the Children’, which on Sunday launched “Every One”, a campaign in India and 40 other countries to call for renewed commitment to ensuring the survival of newborns and children under the age of five.

Unfulfilled promise

In 2000, 189 heads of state and governments, including India, made a promise to reduce the under five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015 under the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal No 4 (MDG4).

However, going by the present trends, India will not meet MDG4 until 2020, which is five years after the promised date, ‘Save the Children’ points out.
Even countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Peru and the Philippines are on track to meet MDG4, exploding the myth that the costs of reducing new born and child mortality are high, it says.

DH News Service

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