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High death rates for Indian babies

6th October 2009

More than 400,000 Indian babies a year die within 24 hours of being born, according to a recent report.

indianchildren

The country comes fifth in a tally of worldwide newborn death rates. Over 15,000 people were surveyed for the purposes of the report.

The surveys were conducted during the past two months in a wide range of places including Great Britain, Italy, China, and Kenya.

Thomas Chandy, head of Save the Children in India, said that the government's efforts to provide basic healthcare to all of the country's citizens had not changed the plight of newborn babies and that, although the intention and allocation of resources were there, they were not reaching the people who needed them.

Researchers found that two million children die every year within 24 hours of being born, and gathered data on 14 countries.

India's child mortality rates came out higher than its neighbours, with 72 deaths for every 1,000 live births and more than two million Indian children dead each year before reaching the age of five.

Mewa, a 25-year-old mother, said that she has had four children, and that she lost her second child when he was two days old.

She said that she does not know why her son passed away, and that he did not seem ill before he died.

During the first months of a child's life, major preventable causes of death may include pneumonia, malnutrition, and diarrhoea.

The report's authors said that, while low-cost solutions to the problem of infant mortality in India exist, public attitudes about healthcare have stopped the government from taking action.

Chandy said that change was indeed possible, and that people would be shocked if they understood how affordable and feasible it is to prevent children from dying.

More than half of all women in India give birth without the help of a doctor or midwife.

Chandy said that some local cultural practices contribute to India's high rates of infant mortality, and that there are tribal groups who do not breastfeed their babies.

The report said that approximately 40 billion dollars could significantly reduce infant mortality worldwide.

When Save the Children in India conducted a survey among Indians living in metropolitan areas, to gauge their attitudes to infant mortality, only a fifth responded that they would be willing to forgo a day's earnings to save a child from dying.


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