The recently released Sample Registration Survey shows only a marginal decrease in infant mortality rate (IMR) in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births has come down to 61 from 63. Though this has contributed to bringing down the national average, the state is far below the target it fixed at the onset of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). In 2007, when NRHM began, the government declared it would bring down IMR to 36 per 1,000 live births. But, the target is still a distant dream. What is worse is that considering the present pace of progress, UP needs another 10 years to achieve the target.
An infant is a child aging between 4 to 52 weeks old while infant mortality rate (or the number of infants dying among every 1,000 live births) is an important health and development indicator. Despite the ‘good news’, there is a long way before the state can heave a sigh of relief. The reason is that even now, UP reports the maximum number of infant deaths in the country. Estimates indicate that close to a thousand infants are dying every day, making UP account for over 25 per cent of total infant deaths reported across the country.
Infant mortality is a vicious problem in the state. It has reined problems of early marriages, inherent malnutrition, poor access to health services and prevention of diseases into one. A study undertaken by community medicine department of Aligarh Muslim University’s medical college has proof. Its paper titled causes of death among infants of rural cluster-a research based on verbal autopsy that was published in the current paediatric research volume 15 issue 1-concluded that birth asphxiya, pneumonia, prematurity and malnutrition were the chief reasons for death of children.
“The reduction is not sufficient at all if UP and India were to achieve the millennium development goal (MDG),” says Jashodhara Das, a health activist. The state has promised to reduce IMR to one-third by 2015 to achieve the MDG. More over, the state is far behind the targets it thrived to achieve in the five-year term of the national rural health mission (NRHM) of 36 per thousand live births. Of the total infant deaths in UP, close to 64 per cent are neonates or children up to an age of four weeks. Health experts are of the view that over 80 per cent of the neonates can be saved. Unfortunately, these babies die mainly due to lack of timely intervention.