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Under-5 mortality rate high in India, says UNICEF report

Special Correspondent

— Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Country Representative, UNICEF India, Gianni Murzi (left), M.K. Bhan, AIIMS, (second from left) and Ministry of Women and Child Development Joint Secretary Loveleen Kacker (second from right) releasing the “State of World’s Children 2008: Child Survival” at a conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI: Of the 9.7 million children dying globally before they reach the age of five, India accounts for 2.1 million, though the mortality has declined by 34 per cent between 1990 and 2006.

India still carries a disproportionate amount of the burden as it accounts for 21 per cent of the under-five children dying in the world.

According to the State of the World’s Children 2008 report on Child Survival, released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) here on Tuesday, urgent action was needed to tackle the underlying causes of deaths of children in the country by increasing investment in child survival and development programmes.

The major causes of child mortality are neonatal (37 per cent), pneumonia (19 per cent), diarrhoea (17 per cent), and AIDS (3 per cent). An estimated 70,000 children below 15 years are infected with HIV and 21,000 children are infected each year through mother-to-child transmission.

As far as low birth-weight deaths are concerned, India accounts for 8.3 per cent of the global figure. The child malnutrition in India has reduced by a percentage point between 1998-99 and 2005-06 to 46 per cent. As many as 35 per cent of the world’ undernourished children live in India.

The key preventive measures suggested in the report are early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, appropriate complementary feeding from six months up to 2 years, skilled care at birth and special care for low-birth weight babies.

“Can be reduced”

The UNICEF country representative in India, Gianni Murzi, said child mortality could be reduced through easy interventions and sustained strengthening of health systems with increased community participation.

“The world will not achieve the millennium development goals without India achieving these,” he added.

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