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Decoding the Mystery of Child Deaths in India

Updated on October 3, 2016

The Current Scenario

On September 1, 2015, more than 50 cases of child death were reported in a pediatric hospital in Odisha that was considered to be among the best centres in the region. All these deaths were reported within a gap of two weeks. The first case was reported on August 21 and by September 1, 52 cases were brought under the scanner, according to an article published by CNN.

In 1990, India accounted for 3.3 million deaths of children under the age of 5, apart from 1.36 million deaths of newborns. Although the numbers were brought down to 1.34 million and 748,000, respectively, by 2013, the national infant mortality rate remains a huge concern in the country. Most of these deaths occur due to birth asphyxia, a condition where the baby does not receive enough oxygen at birth. Neonatal sepsis is the second leading cause of child mortality in the nation.

In addition to this, around 50,000 mothers lose their lives every year, to which even Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “This is worrisome and scary.” India's current newborn mortality rate stands at 29 per 1,000 live births and the aim is to bring it in the single digit range in the next 15 years.

The Reason for This High Mortality Rate

According to the Global Health Observatory (GHO) data, released by the World Health Organization, about 5.9 million children under the age of five died in 2015 globally. Although the mortality rate has been brought down by 53% since 1990, 79 countries still have a mortality rate of above 25 per 1,000 live births including India.

The diversity of the country doesn't allow the figures to represent the true picture, according to one of the best pediatric surgeons in Bangalore. For example, Kerala's under 5 mortality rate is 14 per 1,000 live births but Madhya Pradesh is far behind at 92 per 1,000 live births. This shows that the Government of India has its task cut out.

The reason varies from region to region but one thing that remains common is the lack of knowledge among the population. A majority of the people in the country do not have access to good health care facilities or continue to ignore its importance. This is the reason why even today half of the child births occur without any expert supervision.

Role of Pediatricians

The need for appropriate healthcare is especially important after delivery. However, many new parents fail to understand the need to consult a pediatrician and, as a result, their child fails to get proper nutrition. About 40% of the children in India remain malnourished till the age of 5 years and 79% below the age of 3 years have anemia. Iodine deficiency also leads to children being born with reduced learning capacity, said one of the best pediatric surgeons at Bangalore.

Pediatricians are specifically trained to understand the medical needs of children and within them, there are super-specialties, including pulmonary, cardiac, etc, just like among physicians for adults.

A pediatrician is the best person to consult for the diagnosis and treatment of:

  • Infections
  • Injuries
  • Genetic defects
  • Malignancies
  • Organic diseases and dysfunctions

In fact, their job is not just to provide medical care but also ensure physical and mental well-being of infants through the prevention, early detention and management of problems like:

  • Behavourial difficulties
  • Functional problems
  • Developmental disorders
  • Social stress
  • Depression or anxiety disorders

If India wants to make a difference in terms of child mortality, awareness needs to spread about various medical facilities available. In addition, to-be and new parents should be made aware of the need to monitor the health of their child and consult a pediatrician to ensure healthy overall development for their offspring.

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