- Soumyadeep Bhaumik, medical doctor, independent researcher, and freelance writer, Kolkata, India
India is increasingly seen as an emerging global power, making rapid strides in economic terms. But despite these positive changes, every minute in India three children under 5 years old die.1 Half of all children are malnourished,2 and 70% are anaemic.1 And more than 67 000 women die each year from puerperal causes.3
The big question is whether India will achieve the fourth millennium development goal (MDG) of reducing the child mortality rate by two thirds from that in 1990—that is, to 39 per 1000 live births—by 2015. If India fails it will rank among the least developed nations, confirming suspicions that economic progress is not trickling down to all sections of Indian society.
What do the numbers say?
The United Nations estimates the under 5 mortality rate (U5MR) in 2011 at 61 per 1000 live births, with an average annual reduction of 3.0% (range 3.4% to 2.3%) between 1990 and 2011.4 Almost 30% of global deaths among under 5 year olds are in India, more than in any other country.
“Of course India will have more deaths with its large population; however, the situation is rather bad, and with most of the determinants of child mortality still unaddressed, we cannot hope to improve. Almost all data on the nutrition status of the young child suggest no significant improvement in the past decade,” Yogesh Jain, a public health physician working for Jan Swasthya Sahyog, a people’s health support group at Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, told the BMJ. Between 2006 and 2010, 43% of under 5s were classed as moderately to severely underweight; 20% had wasting; and 48% had stunting.5
An analysis by Unicef released in 2012 …