India Must Act to end Deaths of Children Under 5

Monday 14 March 2011
New Delhi, September 20: As world leaders gather in New York today to debate for three days how countries have fared on the Millennium Development Goals, nearly 15,000 children under 5 will die in India — mostly from treatable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and complications at birth. Save the Children this morning urged India to show leadership and end the tragedy of 1.83 million of completely preventable deaths of children under 5 that occur each year.  
 
 
The three-day meeting (from September 20-22), which External Affairs Minister, S M Krishna and U.S. President Barack Obama are due to attend is the last major chance for world leaders to get back on track to meet their promises and save 15 million children worldwide by 2015, the aid organisation said.
 
“We’ve made some progress in tackling poverty, and improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the past decade but the child and maternal mortality goals (MDGs 4 and 5) are the most off-track, of the eight global commitments world leaders made in 2000,” Thomas Chandy, CEO, said.
 
Despite progress in reducing maternal mortality and child mortality, India still ranks 1 out of 12 countries that account for two-thirds of under five and maternal deaths in the world. Approximately 1.83 million children still die every year before the age of five and an estimated 67,000 women lose their lives due to pregnancy or childbirth complications.
 
In India, the annual rate of decline in child mortality between 1990 and 2008 has been 2.25 per cent. As per the 2015 target, the country needs to reduce under-5 mortality to 39/1000. The required rate of decline from 2009 to 2015 per year has gone up to 6.28 per cent.
Save the Children calls on the world’s leaders to step up their efforts to reach the goals, and says that they cannot do this by leaving the poorest children behind. Governments must focus on the barriers that stop the poorest children from getting access to the health care and nutrition that will improve their chances of survival.
 
In a recent report, A Fair Chance at Life, Save the Children revealed that in India improvements in child protection are benefiting children from better-off communities more than children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those living in remote areas, or from minority groups. As a result, the poorest children are up to three times less likely to reach their fifth birthday than the richest children.
 
This means that the decline in child mortality rates has been accompanied by a dangerous expansion of the child mortality gap between the richest and poorest, widening existing inequalities. “Bypassing the poorest violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the targets. What’s more, it stands as the greatest threat to achieving the MDGs,” Chandy said.
 
“While progress towards reaching the goals has meant that some children have benefited from better healthcare, nutrition, sanitation and education, other groups - girls, isolated rural populations, slum dwellers, ethnic minorities, and those in conflict zones, have not,” Chandy said.
 
Save the Children’s research shows that prioritising marginalized and excluded communities, especially in States lagging behind is one of the surest ways that India can reduce the numbers of children dying from easily preventable causes. The National Rural Health Mission, for example, should have a clear focus on social inclusion of Dalits and Adivasis in terms of access to health care.
 
“World leaders at the summit must not lose sight of the fact that we can still meet the goals. We know what needs to be done to save lives; a sense of urgency and stronger leadership is now needed.  The thousands of children who will die today and every day because their parents can’t get the health care and nutrition they need to survive deserve this at the very least,” Chandy said.