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India fails to improve child mortality rates

Yet again, India has scored poorly in basic health indicators compared to the rest of South-Asian nations, most of these economically weaker than India. However Afghanistan and Pakistan are even below and have shown a poor performance.

As latest figure released by the government of India suggest, nations like Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka seems to be in a better position when it comes to child healthcare. The Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) (per thousands live births) of India is 34. On the other hand, Bangladesh stands at 30, Nepal and China at 26 and 11 respectively.

Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) (per thousands live births) of India stands at 50. Countries like Bangladesh, China, Nepal and Sri Lanka have emerged as better performing countries with low infant mortality rate. The infant mortality rate of Sri Lanka is 13 and that of China is 17. However, Pakistan and Afghanistan recorded high infant mortality rates. The Infant Mortality Rate of Pakistan stands at 70 and that of Afghanistan at 134.

The Under–Five Mortality Rate (U5MR) (per thousands live births) of India is 64. Among India’s neighbours, Sri Lanka emerges out to be the top performer followed by China, Nepal and Bangladesh. The U5MR of Sri Lanka is 16 and that of Bangladesh is 52.

Pakistan and Afghanistan again emerge out as worst performers in Under–five Mortality Rate. The U5MR of Pakistan and Afghanistan stand at 87 and 199, respectively.

Dr. Sunita Kocchar, a Delhi based child health expert says the root cause lies in poor maternal care at the time of pregnancy. She also blames the unawareness of the mother and entire family for the same. “The social setup in our country where the majority of women is not fed and treated properly during pregnancy is the major cause”, says Dr. Kocchar. And a woman’s poor awareness about breastfeeding, hygiene and general healthy practices adds to the woes.

India is a big nation where planning of healthcare programmes should be such that they are able to cater to the majority. Limitation lies in the accessibility of the medical facilities by all. Hefty fees charged by doctors, costly medicines force people with humble background to turn to local quacks, unskilled midwives and self medication leading to complications which at times turn fatal and add to the number of child or mother deaths.

The focus should be on to strengthen the public healthcare system which is efficiently executed and is easily accessible for every citizen. Giving priority to the high-end hospitals and allowing medicine prices to soar high would not help India improve its record in child mortality rates.

Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note

 Other Articles by d-sector Team in
Human Development  > Health > Children Healthcare

Sports and energy drinks not safe for teenagers
Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cancer kills kids too
Monday, February 07, 2011

India fares poorly on breast-feeding Index
Monday, December 27, 2010

Neonatal deaths on a high in Bihar
Tuesday, December 07, 2010

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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