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India's child death rate highest in the world: Report

Oct 05, 2009

India has made little progress in controlling child mortality, according to international child right group Save the Children. Its new report to be released today says two million children die below the age of five in India annually.

New Delhi: If the future of a country is its children, India has serious cause for concern. Two million children below the age of five die every year in India, giving it the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest number of such deaths.

The shocking statistics have been compiled by Save the Children, a child rights group, in a report being released on Monday.

The report says over 400,000 of our newborns die within 24 hours of birth, again the highest figure in the world.

Globally, this figure is two million. India accounts for one-fifth of newborn deaths, those dying within a month of birth, and also has one-third of the world’s undernourished children.

In short, despite its commendable economic growth in the past decade, the country has made little progress in controlling child mortality.

“Nearly a decade of high economic growth has not translated into improved healthcare and nutrition for the majority of children,” the report says.

This is when these deaths could be easily prevented with low-cost interventions.

The child mortality rate – the number of deaths in every 1,000 children below five years of age – in India was 117 in 1990.

In 2007, this number had gone down to 72. The country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target for 2015 is 38.

While our average annual rate of reduction in child mortality is only 2.9, it has to be 7.6 if the MDG is to be attained.

According to the report, India’s child mortality rate is worse than that of its less developed neighbours – Bangladesh’s rate is 61 while Sri Lanka’s is 21.

Not surprisingly, these rates are not the same within India. There are huge differences among various states, income groups, tribal groups and castes.

For example, the under-five mortality rate in Kerala is 16 per 1,000 live births. It is 20 in Goa; 96 in Uttar Pradesh; 94 in Madhya Pradesh; and 85 in Rajasthan.

Across the country, the under-five mortality rate for those earning the lowest is 92, while it is 33 among the highest earners.

According to a paper published in the Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, child mortality rates among the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes are 33 to 100% higher than in other categories.

While the mortality rate of children under five years of age is 88.1 for SCs, 95.7 for STs and 72.8 for OBCs, it is 59.2 for other castes.

Fortunately, these deaths are not random events beyond control. “To a great extent, they are the outcome of policy and political choices,” the report says.

The fact that India ranks 171 out of 175 countries in the world in public health spending speaks for itself.

“Poor countries such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Peru and the Philippines that are on track to meet the MDG target explode the myth that the costs of reducing newborn and child mortality are high. In India, Maharashtra has shown low-cost home-based childcare could reduce neonatal mortality by up to 70%,” Thomas Chandy, chief executive officer, Save the Children, said.

The global economic and food crises are also affecting children’s survival.

A.M. Khan, professor of social sciences at the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, said India was far behind in almost all health indices such as maternal mortality and total fertility rate. But within the country, there is a North-South divide. Two-three states in the North are polluting the entire statistics, he said.

Source : Mail Today
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