Despite health improvements over the last thirty years, lives continue to be lost to early childhood diseases, inadequate newborn care and childbirth-related causes. More than two million children die every year from preventable infections.
Infant mortality in India is as high as 63 deaths per 1,000 live births. Most infant deaths occur in the first month of life; up to 47 per cent in the first week itself. While the Infant Mortality Rate showed a rapid decline during the 1980s, the decrease has slowed during the past decade.
Maternal deaths are similarly high. The reasons for this high mortality are that few women have access to skilled birth attendants and fewer still to quality emergency obstetric care. In addition, only 15 per cent of mothers receive complete antenatal care and only 58 per cent receive iron or folate tablets or syrup.
Children in India continue to lose their life to vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, which remains the biggest killer. Tetanus in newborns remains a problem in at least five states: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Assam. The number of polio cases in India declined from 1,934 in 1998 to 268 in 2001. There was a setback in 2002 as 1,600 cases were confirmed at the end of the year. But with only 225 cases of polio reported in 2003, India is well on its way to interrupting transmission and eradicating the disease. However, the proportion of children who receive vaccination against measles has dropped considerably, from 72% in 1995 to a low of 50% in 1999. It now stands at 61%.
Government of India Action on Health
• Strengthen existing health systems by increasing the number of health workers
• Prevent newborn deaths through home-based medical visits
• Increase children’s access to immunisation
Comprehensive newborn care initiative launched in Bihar
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