Drop in infant mortality rate raises hope

Karnataka, Delhi fare better than national average

Amid the cacophony on the Lokpal Bill, here is a piece of news to cheer up millions of hearts. India’s infant mortality rate (IMR) has dropped by three points raising the hope of a large section of country reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal target (MDG) by 2015.

India has an ambitious target of achieving an IMR of 28 per 1,000 live births by 2015. With the IMR dropping to 47 in 2010 from 50 in 2009, the Union Health Ministry felt that the national average might come close to the UN target in many districts in another three years if not achieving it on a country-wide scale.   

Kerala, Goa, Manipur and Nagaland are the only four states that achieved an IMR below the MDG target so far. The same is true for Union territories Andaman and Nicobar islands, Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.

The IMR declined by three points in Karnataka and Delhi. Both fared better than the national average. While it dropped from 41 in 2009 to 38 in 2010 in Karnataka, in the national capital, the drop is from 33 to 30.

“The government plans to start special new born care units in every district by 2012 end to further arrest baby deaths. The rural health workers (ASHA) are being given incentives to popularise home-based neonatal care,” said Union Health Secretary P K Pradhan. So far, as many as 293 such units were set up, each requiring Rs 50 lakh and at least three doctors with special training in paediatrics.

Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh are the two best performers as they brought down the number of child deaths by five points. But despite MP’s good performance in the last one year, on a national level MP along with Odisha and Uttar Pradesh are the three worst performers with an IMR above 60.

Neonatal mortality, however, remains a matter of concern with as many as 34 babies per 1,000 live births dying within the first 28 days of their lives.

As there are sharp district-wise variations within nine focused states in north and central India, the government was asking the states to identify the severely anaemic mothers, whose number will be five-six in every sub-centres, and mothers delivering low-weight babies so that they can be counselled for better child survival prospect.

The government’s mother and child tracking system registered 1.36 crore mothers and 82.68 lakh children so far whose health status were also being monitored for better mother and child care, he said.

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