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UN report says India’s infant mortality rates lowest in five years, four-fold decline in gender gap in girl child survival

The number of infant deaths reported in India for the year 2017 is the lowest in five years. According to reports, the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UNIGME)has stated in its report that 8,02,000 infants died in India in the year 2017, the lowest in five years.

The UNIGME report states that in 2016, 8,60,000 infants had died in India. Yasmeen Ali Haque, the UNICEF representative in India has stated, ” India continues to show an impressive decline in child mortality deaths, with its share of global under-five deaths for the first time equalling its share of childbirths.”

Yasmeen Ali Haque also reportedly stated that the efforts for improving institutional delivery along with a countrywide scale-up of newborn care units joined with robust immunisation drives have been instrumental in achieving the feat. According to reports, India’s infant mortality rate was 44 per 1000 live childbirths. In 2017, the gender-specific mortality rate has come down to 39 per 1000 live male childbirths and 40 per 1000 live female childbirths. Haque added that the four-fold decline in the gender gap in the survival of girl children is even more heartening.

In 2012, a UN report had stated that the gender gap in child mortality in India is far worse than the global average in developing countries and as girls have biological advantages over boys for better adaptability and resistance to diseases, the child mortality rate of 56 boys for every 100 girls dying suggests a disturbing socio-cultural trend of neglect and lack of care for the girl child.

The recent UNIGME report states that globally a total of 6.3 million children had died in 2017, 1 in every 5 seconds. Most of these deaths were due to preventable causes. A majority of these deaths, 5.4 million is among children below 5-years of age. Laurence Chandy, the director of data, research and policy in UNICEF has stated that simple measures like access to clean water, sanitation, electricity and vaccines can drastically reduce the numbers. Chandy added that over half of the 5.4 deaths among children below five had occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and a further 30% In South Asia.

The UNIGME report states that most children under 5 die due to preventable causes like complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria. The report also stated that for children everywhere, the riskiest period is the first month after birth. 2.5 million of the 5.4 million deaths under were of infants in their first month. Even within countries, rural areas show a 50% higher rate in neonatal deaths than urban areas.

In India, the recent increase in awareness over sanitation and the government’s drive to ensure toilets in every household is widely considered a strong factor in bringing down death rates among the population. A recent WHO report had stated that over 3 lakh deaths due to sanitation-related diseases were prevented in India due to the government’s push for Swachh Bharat Mission. In Uttar Pradesh, an aggressive immunisation and awareness programme called Dasatk has been able to significantly bring down deaths due to Japanese Encephalitis. UNICEF India had praised UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s government recently for successfully immunising every child in the state against Japanese Encephalitis.

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