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India could have prevented 1.2 mn child deaths in 2015; govt leaders, are you listening?

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

Around 1.2 million children under five years of age died of preventable causes in India in 2015 alone, according to a Unicef report released on 28 June.

The report says that most of the deaths in India occur by diseases which are easily preventable and treatable. It includes India among the five countries accounting for half the 5.9 million under-five deaths reported across the world last year.

The other four countries are Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Pakistan, whose economies are smaller when compared to India's.

"... some countries in the fast lane for global economic growth- including India and Nigeria - have been in the slower lane for child mortality reduction," says the State of the World's Children 2016 report. "The policy lesson: Economic growth can help but does not guarantee improved child survival, and a country's income need not hinder progress."

In India, premature and neonatal birth complications (39%) were the biggest killers followed by pneumonia (14.9%), diarrhoea (9.8%) and sepsis (7.9%) among others, reported Hindustan Times.

Though India's under-five mortality rate -- deaths per 1,000 live births -- has improved to 48 from 126 deaths in 1990, it still has a lot of catching up to do, says United Nations children's emergency fund.

India, which reported 25 million births in 2015, is the third worst offender in the southeast Asian region after Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's next door neighbours Nepal and Bangladesh have a better under-five mortality rate of 36 and 38, respectively.

China, whose economic growth has slowed in recent days, recorded only 11 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births.

The report says while 94% of the Indian population has access to clean drinking water, toilet facilities are available to only 40% of the people.

According to the report, proper nutrition, immunisation, and safe water, too, can substantially bring down the deaths.

The UN children's agency has also stressed on educating girls and says if all mothers complete secondary education, South Asia will see 1.3 million fewer child deaths every year.

Poor infrastructure, lack of resources, overburdened staff, pilferage and lax enforcement had hit the programme. "There is a need to relook at ICDS and see how it can be effectively used to tackle nutrition issues in children," said a government official who did not wish to be identified.

Unicef warns that by 2030, 69 million children could die from "preventable causes" before the age of five if political leaders fail to address global inequality.

Five countries alone will account for more than half the deaths: India (17%), Nigeria (15%), Pakistan (8%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (7%) and Angola (5%).

First published: 28 June 2016, 3:29 IST