By Devinder Sharma
September 9, 2010
The startling figure still resonates in my memory. Some 25 years back, I remember reading a report in one of the major dailies which said that some 5,000 children die every day in India. Today morning, my attention therefore was automatically drawn to a news report: 1.83 million children die before fifth bithday every year: Report (Indian Express, Sept 8, 2010).
I immediately took out a pen and paper to find out the per day child mortality rate. I wanted to know whether the child mortality rate has come down, and by how much, in the last 25 years or so. My disappointment has grown. The calculations shows that every day 5,013 children are succumbing to malnutrition. Given that a half of all children in India are under-nourished as per the National Family Health Survey III (2005-06), of which over 5,000 die every day I think every Indian needs to hang his/her head in shame.
Globally, 14,600 children die every day. This means that India alone has the dubious distinction of having more than a third of the world’s child mortality. This is ironically happening at a time when food is rotting in the godowns.
Yes, India is surely an emerging economic superpower, but building an Empire over hungry stomachs! Mera Bharat Mahaan!!
A new global report “A fair Chance at Life” by the international child rights organisation Save the Children is not only a damming indictment of the supplementary nutrition programmes that have been running for several decades now, but also is an eye-opener in many ways. While it tells us how hollow the global claims under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are, nationally it shows us the stark hidden realities. A country which doesn’t get tired of patting itself in the back for creating an impressive list of 50 billionaires, and off and on does bask under the fictitious glow of Shining India, the dark underbelly remains deliberately hidden from the media glare.
Let us look at what the report says: “Of the 26 million children born in India every year, approximately 1.83 million died before their fifth birthday. “What these aggregate figures do not reveal are the huge inequities in mortality rates across the country, within States and between them, as well as between children in urban and rural areas.”
Half of these children actually die within a month of being born. In other words, nearly 2,500 children of those who die have not even survived for more than a month. This is an indication of not only the inability of the parents to provide adequate nutrition to their new born, but more than that is a reflection of the impoverished condition of the especially the mother. Does it not tell us to what extent poverty and hunger prevails in this country? Do we need to still work out more effective parameters to measure hunger and malnutrition? Do we really need to find a new estimate of people living below the poverty line (BPL)?
Madhya Pradesh tops the list, followed closely by Uttar Pradesh. The under-5 mortality rate in Kerala was 14 deaths per 1000 live births. This stood at a sharp contrast to Madhya Pradesh at 92 per 1000 and 91 per 1000 for Uttar Pradesh.
I am reproducing below a news report from the pages of The Hindu (Sept 8, 2010):
‘Children from poorest section 3 times more likely to die before age of 5 than those from high income groups’
Children from the poorest communities are three times more likely to die before they reach the age of 5 than those from high income groups, Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation has said.
In a global report titled A Fair Chance at Life, the organisation said the policy to lower child mortality in India and elsewhere appeared to focus on children from better-off communities, leaving out those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
“The 41 percentage decline in child mortality over the last two decades masks a dangerous expansion of the child mortality gap between the richest and poorest families in India,” Save the Children CEO Thomas Chandy said.
Child mortality is often described as the best barometer of social and economic progress. Despite being one of the fastest growing economies, there has been no visible pattern between per capita income growth and the rate of reduction of child mortality rates. In 2008, 5.3 lakh children under 5 died in the lowest income quintile in comparison to 1.78 lakh among the wealthy quintile. The rate of decline between 2005-06 and 1997-98 among the lowest income quintile is 22.69 per cent, compared to 34.37 per cent among the high income quintile for the same period.
Of the 26 million children born in India every year, approximately 1.83 million died before their fifth birthday. “What these aggregate figures do not reveal are the huge inequities in mortality rates across the country, within States and between them, as well as between children in urban and rural areas,” Mr. Chandy said.
The under-5 mortality rate in Kerala was 14 deaths per 1000 live births. This stood at a sharp contrast to Madhya Pradesh at 92 per 1000 and 91 per 1000 for Uttar Pradesh.
“Every child has the right to survive and the Indian government has an obligation to protect them. Save the Children’s research shows that prioritising marginalised and excluded communities, especially in the States lagging behind, is one of the surest ways that India can reduce the number of children dying from easily preventable causes. The National Rural Health Mission, for example, should have a clear focus on social inclusion of Dalits and adivasis in terms of access to healthcare,” he said.
Save the Children’s report comes two weeks before a high-level U.N. summit in New York from September 20-22 to assess progress against the Millennium Development Goals.
By demonstrating a political will and the right policies, MDG4 could be achieved in India. The good schemes in place needed to be matched by effective implementation. And there was enough experience in India proving that low-cost interventions can make the difference between life and death for a child, the report said.
Huge inequity in child mortality rates: Survey
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