New Delhi: Forget clean drinking water and eradication of poverty. Even after 61 years of Independence, a staggering 2.1 million children under the age of five years die annually in India, according to the Unicef 2009 data on state of children in the world. the figure projects a dismal situation at a time when the central government is trying to cash in on several flagship projects aimed at improving the deplorable condition of children, especially in rural and semi-rural belts.
The data has been collected by international charity organisation Save the Children from UNICEF and National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS). The data shows that the condition of children in India is as deplorable as that of their counterparts in sub-Saharan African countries and Bangladesh.
“At a time when countries like even Bangladesh have succeeded in reducing child mortality rates, India continues to fare badly. As many as 2.1 million children under the age of five years die annually and 60% of these deaths are reported within the first 28 days of birth,” Shireen Vakil Miller, director of advocacy and planning of Save the Children said, quoting the Unicef report.
While these are figures provided by an international organisation, India’s own survey agency, the NFHS, also made shockingrevelations. Three NFHS surveys have been conducted since 1992-93 and the latest (conducted in 2005-06 and recently released) tells the same story as the Unicef report.
The NGHS is under the Union ministry of health and family welfare. “In India, for every 1,000 live births, 57 deaths occur in children less than one year of age, and 18.4 children die between their first and fifth birthdays. Out of the 57 infants who die (for every 1,000 live births) before reaching their first birthday, more than 65% pass away even before they complete one month,” Miller said, quoting the NFHS-3 report.
What is even more alarming is that the common causes for the deaths are curable diseases such diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria, measles and pre- and post-natal complications, she said.
Save the Children officials saidundernourishment was another major cause of infant mortality. “One out of every four children in the world who die under the age of one and one out of every three malnourished children is an Indian. Over half of the country’s children are malnourished.” Miller said.
Save the Children officials said 65% of deaths can be accounted to five states. “While Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa recorded the highest number of infant deaths, Kerala, Goa, Manipur, Sikkim and Manipur registered a reduction in numbers. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, which have a significant rural populations also registered high child mortality rates,” Miller said.
The organisation observed that more than half of these deaths could be avoided if children were better nourished and problems such as anaemia in women addressed. While the organisation appreciated the Centre’s flagship schemes — Integrated Child Development Scheme, Janani Suraksha Yojana and National Rural Health Mission, it said the benefits of the two projects were not reaching poor families. The organisation said the deaths could be minimised by promoting home-based neonatal care and ensuring universal immunisation.
Puneet Nicholas Yadav, April 7, 2009 , DNA