Why are so many children dying in India?

Around 1.2 million children under five years died due to reasons that were entirely preventable according to the latest Unicef report released today.

The report says that most of the deaths were due to diseases that could have been treated and that India is among five countries that account for half of the nearly six million under-five deaths reported worldwide in 2015.

The other four countries are Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Pakistan – all of which have economies much smaller when compared to India’s.

The biggest killers In India are premature and neonatal birth complications, followed by pneumonia, diarrhea and sepsis.

What is disturbing is that two of the countries in the list, India and Nigeria, are on the fast track of growth economically, but are poor performers when it comes to reducing child mortality.

While India’s under-five mortality rate has improved to 48 per 1000 deaths from 126 deaths in 1990, there is a lot left to do.

Even Nepal and Bangladesh have a better under-five mortality rate compared to India.

Diseases like diarrhea can be prevented if sanitation measures are improved. As the Unicef report says, while 94% of India’s population has access to clean drinking water, toilet facilities are available to just 40%.

There is also a need to relook at how schemes like ICDS are performing on the ground to address the loopholes that come in the way of bringing down child deaths. In many states, the functioning of anganwadis has been crippled due to the lack of resources, staff and theft. This is true not just for remote villages but even areas in suburban Mumbai.

While worldwide, under-five mortality rate has come down dramatically, there is need to focus on those who slipping the net. Unless that is done we are looking at 69 million children dying of preventable causes by 2030, many of them in India.

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