Delhi in the red for infant mortality

Unhealthy Environment


Delhiites have a say on everything from politics to pollution and sports to slums. Unfortunately though, issues of health and environment do not get the attention
they deserve. 

From adults to newborns, all are facing the repercussions of the scant regard towards public healthcare. This is borne by the results of a recent survey  conducted by the NGO Save the Children in four metropolitan cities which found that Delhi has the highest Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). The report, titled ‘Ending Newborn Deaths, Ensuring Every Baby Survives’, states that Delhi’s IMR is as high as 30 out of 1,000
live births!

This brings into focus the attention towards healthcare facilities available in the City which are attracting a major chunk of people from nearby states to avail the same. Though doctors mention that the high ratio of infant mortality in the City takes into account the lower class, comprising labourers and daily wage workers, but the provision of medical facilities for the millions of infants and neonatals (infant during the first month after birth) is not up to the mark.

“One of the main reason of Delhi being the highest in IMR is the fact that the healthcare services do not reach the most vulnerable section of the society. Expecting mothers in the urban slums are themselves malnutritioned and therefore give birth to unhealthy babies. Fifty per cent of deaths occur in the neonatal stage due to respiratory problems which can be avoided if a good transport system is ensured,” opines Dr Rajeev Seth, chairperson, Indian Academy of Paediatrics informing about the poor state of nursery care in Government as well as few private hospitals across the city.

“Another major reason is the lack of availability of vaccinations for this strata of society. Most infants or neonatals die due to pneumonia or diarrhoea. Both are expensive vaccines which the lower class can’t afford.”

Though this is the grim state of the urban poor, even the affluent are unable to provide a healthy atmosphere to their young ones. Due to the high level of population in the city, even those infants, which have the best of healthcare facilities, at times succumb to respiratory problems.

“One of my nursing staff resigned from her job and went back to her home in Kerala since her kids suffered severe respiratory problems.

Once they started living there, the kids stopped taking medicines and are perfectly fine,” says Dr Manish Manan, consultant paediatrician, Paras Hospital indicating that the toxic air and environment in Delhi and NCR severely affect the health of young ones.   

“I advise my patients to take their children for vacation to hilly areas where there is less pollution. Though there is awareness among the middle and upper classes, yet people should try and stay out of a newborn baby’s room and not give them honey or gripewater which are sources of infection,” adds Dr Manish.

Dr Himanshu Batra, consultant paediatrician at Columbia Asia Hospital emphasises the “significance of breast feeding. For a healthy baby, it is important that an expectant mother gets proper nutrition and delivers the child in the presence of child specialists.” Despite repeated endeavours of the Government to spread awareness about these issues, the statistics prove that they are not reaching the grassroots level.

“We live in a country where leave apart infants, even adults don’t have the Right to Health in our Constitution,” remarks Dr Rajeev compelling more than a thought about the health of the future generations.

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