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‘40% of neo-natal deaths occur on the first day of birth’

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Mar 7: 

To curb under-5 mortality, the focus must be on ensuring that children survive their first day of birth, reveals Save the Children’s new global report ‘Ending newborn deaths, ensuring every baby survives’ launched by Dr. NK Das, Special Secretary, Health & Family Welfare, Government of Odisha here today. The Director, Family Welfare and Director, SIH&FW were present on the occasion.

Report Launch - Save the Children

The report shows that while there has been significant progress on ensuring child survival in India, the fact that nearly 40 per cent of neo-natal deaths occur on the 1st day of birth in India is stalling progress on achieving MDG 4. In 2012 alone, 1.01 million babies who died on their first day of life.

India accounts for an astounding 29 per cent of the global deaths of newborns on their very first day of birth.  About half the first-day deaths around the world could be prevented if every mother and baby had access to free and quality health care and skilled birth attendants.

“India has made a lot of progress in terms of child survival. Newborn deaths remain a challenge in India’s battle against child mortality, we need to ensure that every child is saved,” Dr. Das asserted. Among others who participated in a discussion at the report’s unveiling program were Yumi Bae, UNICEF, Odisha State Chief, Ms. Supriya Patnaik, DFID State Representative, noted Odishi Dancer Guru Aruna Mohanty, popular Cine/ TV Actor Pratibha Panda and Sasanka Kumar Padhi, Odisha State Program Manager, Save the Children.

“If we want to achieve MDG 4 by 2015, we have to focus on ensuring survival on the first day of birth”, Padhi stated, and added:  ‘Our report reveals the true scale of the newborn crisis. Without targeted action now, progress made in cutting child mortality will stall. If we can eradicate polio, we can also ensure that a child does not die due to preventable reasons’.

With the Call to Action on Child Survival, the Government of India — as well as the Government of Odisha — have demonstrated a high level of commitment and political will towards ensuring child survival. India has the technical know-how; what is required is a greater urgency to ongoing efforts and focus on the poorest and the most marginalised groups. The report also highlights that equity is a critical factor – the newborn mortality rate among the wealthiest 20 percent of India’s population is 26 per 1,000 babies, while among the poorest households 56 per 1,000 who die in the very first month of life. Save the Children believes that there are four essential areas for neonatal care that need to be addressed: warmth, initial breastfeeding, hygiene and resuscitation (if required). In keeping with the momentum, Save the Children recommends – (i) Every mother and very newborn must have access to free, effective health care that will save their lives through a continuum of care approach and (ii) Inequity that persists among different social groups and across varying geographical divides must be tackled so that every mother and child gets requisite care.

The world has made dramatic  progress with nearly halving  child mortality from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million over the past decade  – thanks to significant advances with  immunisation, treatment of pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria, family planning and nutrition. This report warns that newborn deaths now account for nearly half of all under-5 deaths. Save the Children’s report says the deaths occur because of preterm birth and complications during birth – such as prolonged labour, pre-eclampsia and infections – which can be avoided if skilled health workers are present. India has made dramatic progress in bringing the under-5 mortality from 114 in 1990 to 52 per 1000 live births in 2012, a reduction of more than 54.4 percent, while the global reduction is at 44.8 per cent.

Yet today, Odisha and the whole country also represent some of the greatest challenges in seeing this revolution through, including inequity. India has persistently high rates of newborn mortality, and accounts for 26.6 percent of all newborn deaths globally, with 7,58,000 newborn deaths a year.  But for the first time, the Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) has declined by 2 points in 2 consecutive years: from 33 to 31 per 1000 between 2010-2011; 31 to 29 per 1000 live births between 2011– 2012. Clearly, newborn survival must be a central element of a clear national agenda for improving maternal and child health to ensure that every child survives.