Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Two million children die in India annually: UNICEF

Two million children die in India annually: UNICEF
Tue-Aug 05, 2008

New Delhi / Press Trust of India

Over two million children in India die every year due to malnutrition, pneumonia and diarrhoea, a UNICEF report released on Tuesday said.

Around 2.1 million children died in India in 2006 while the number was 4,15,000 in China. In 2004 and 2005, nearly four million children had died in India where the Infant Mortality Rate is 57 per 1,000 births, the State of the Asia Pacific's Children Report 2008 said.

Health care fails to reach poorest sections of people in India, it said, adding the country needs to improve in many areas including nutrition, water and sanitation, education, gender equality and child protection.

Unless India takes steps to address them, efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals, that aims to achieve education and health care for all by 2015, will fail, the report said.

"The divide between rich and poor is rising at a troubling rate within sub-regions of Asia-Pacific, leaving a vast number of mothers and children at risk of increasing relative poverty and continued exclusion from quality primary health-care services," it said.

In India, one out of every three women is underweight putting them at risk of having low birth weight babies and these babies are 20 times more likely to die in infancy than healthy babies.

South Asia is also the only sub-region in the world where female life expectancy is lower than male life expectancy and where girls are more likely to be underweight than boys.

"Unless discrimination against women and girls is addressed, high rates of maternal and child mortality will remain stubbornly entrenched," the UN report said.

Public health expenditure in Asia-Pacific region remains well below the world average of 5.1 per cent as South Asia spends only 1.1 per cent of GDP and 1.9 per cent being spent in the rest of the region, it said.

The report stressed on political will and sound strategies to increase investment in public health services targeting the poorest and most marginalised.

The UN body, in its report, has recommended to strengthen health systems by involving communities in preventative public health interventions.

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