Child Mortality in India still needs a lot of improvement

Child Mortality in India is improving but has a long way to go.

India has shown real progress in reducing child mortality over the past decade. According to the United Nations, in 2001, 2.5 million Indian children under the age of 5 died. In 2012, 1.5 million died. This is good news, but India alone still accounts for 20 percent of child mortality worldwide — and a shocking 48 percent of Indian children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished.

According to the World Bank, India’s under-5 child mortality rate in 2012 was 56 deaths per 1,000, far short of the country’s goal of reducing child mortality to 39 per 1,000 by 2015. By comparison, the child mortality rate in 2012 in Bangladesh was 41; in Brazil, 14; and in the United States, 7. China is at 14 per 1000 with about 258,000 deaths. France is at 4 and Finland is at 3.

World Health Organization statistics on 5 and under child mortality.

Over 70% of all under-five deaths occur in WHO African and South-East Asia regions. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are over 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed regions. About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries:

India     1,414,000  (population 1.26 billion)
Nigeria     827,000  (population 170 million, high fertility rate about 5.38)
Pakistan    409,000  (population 180 million)
Congo       391,000  (population 74 million)
China       258,000  (population 1.35 billion)

* 6.6 million children under the age of five died in 2012.
* More than half of these early child deaths are due to conditions that could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions.
* Leading causes of death in under-five children are pneumonia, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia, diarrhoea and malaria. About 45% of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition.
* Children in sub-Saharan Africa are about over 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed regions.

According to a report published by The Lancet in September, half of India’s child mortality occurs in just 81 of its 597 districts. Several are in India’s richest states, including Gujarat, hailed as a high-growth economic model, and Karnataka, whose capital, Bangalore, is India’s Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, causes of death are not tracked at the district level.

India has worked hard to change patriarchal traditions that sanction child marriage, a practice that is illegal yet persists. (Child mortality rates are higher for babies born to mothers under the age of 18.) Yet in a society that values boys over girls, gender remains the biggest factor in an Indian baby’s chance of survival. For every 100 male Indian children under 5 that die, 131 females do — victims of neglect, poorer nutrition and second-rate medical care.

The way forward is clear. The government of India must act urgently to find out why some districts are failing and to provide wider access to sanitation, nutrition and health services — meanwhile redoubling efforts to make sure girls are not forced to become mothers before they are ready and, in general, to give them the same life chances as boys

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