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15000 children die in India in 3 days

Last updated on: September 22, 2010 09:51 IST

15000 children die in India in 3 days

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As world leaders meet in New York for a three-day debate on how their countries have fared on the Millennium Development Goals they set a decade ago, nearly 15,000 children under 5 will die in as many days in India -- mostly from preventable diseases.

Despite progress in reducing maternal and child mortality rate, India still ranks one out of 12 countries that account for two-thirds of under five and maternal deaths in the world.

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Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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According to latest estimates released last week by UNICEF, India recorded 17.26 lakh under-five deaths with a mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) of 66 in 2009. The annual rate of decline in child mortality between 1990 and 2008 has been 2.25 per cent. The country's goal (MDG-4) is to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds to 39/1000 by 2015.

The required rate of decline from 2009 to 2015 per year has gone up to 6.28 per cent. Similarly, India's maternal mortality ratio came down from 570 deaths per 1,00,000 live births to 230 in 2008, but the country still has the highest rate of maternal deaths with at least 63,000 such deaths taking place in 2008 alone.

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As per the MDG-5, India has to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters. But new figures show that there has been a 34 per cent drop since 1990.

A new report 'A Fair Chance at Life' by international child rights organisation 'Save the Children' has found that out of the 26 million children born in India every year, nearly 1.83 million die before their fifth birthday. This suggests that on an average, 5,000 children die everyday due to preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and complications at birth.


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"We have made some progress in tackling poverty, and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the past decade, but the child and maternal mortality goals (MDGs 4 and 5) are the most off-track of the eight global commitments world leaders made in 2000," said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children India.


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By the time world leaders finish their three-day summit, which began on Monday, nearly 15,000 children would die in India, Chandy said, calling on the government to end the misery of children, especially the poor who do not get proper health care facilities in rural parts.

Foreign Minister S M Krishna is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on India's progress towards achieving the MDGs on Wednesday.

According to the organisation's report, improvements in the child survival rate in India are benefiting children from better-off communities more than those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. As a result, the poorest children are up to three times less likely to reach their fifth birthday than the rich.

This means that the decline in child mortality rate has been accompanied by a dangerous expansion in the child mortality gap between the richest and poorest, widening existing inequalities. Experts say that prioritising marginalised and excluded communities, especially in 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 should focus on social inclusion of Dalits and Adivasis in terms of access to health care, they said. A sense of urgency and stronger leadership is now needed to prevent thousands of deaths that occur daily, Chandy said.


Image: Homeless children under a flyover in New Delhi
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
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