Child mortality reduction still a distant dream


  Tracking MDG-4

Himanshu Shekhar

The fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) is to reduce the mortality rate among children under five by two third, between 1990 and 2015. But, after keeping the pace of progress in mind, this goal looks quite difficult to be achieved in coming five years. According to MDG report 2010, “Substantial progress has been made in reducing child deaths. Since 1990, the mortality rate for children under the age of five in developing countries dropped by 28 per cent, from 100 deaths per 1,000 live births to 72 in 2008. Globally, the total number of under-five deaths declined from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. The average annual rate of decline increased to 2.3 percent for the period 2000 to 2008, compared to 1.4 percent in the 1990s.”

After these encouraging figures, report comes to the ground realities, “many countries still have unacceptable high levels of child mortality and have made little or no progress in recent years. Among the 67 countries with high child mortality rates (defined as 40 or more deaths per 1,000 live births), only 10 are on track to meet the MDG target on child survival.”

India is also not on track to achieve the goal of two third reductions in child mortality rate by 2015. According to the Sample Registration System Statistical Report 2008, under-five mortality in India is at 69 per 1000 live births. This report is prepared by the government of India using a large sample size. It means, the statistics of the report are more reliable and authentic. In 2000, under-five mortality in India was at 84.6 per 100 live births.

After comparing the figures of 2008 with the figures of 2000, it appears next to impossible to achieve the target of two third reductions in child mortality rate by 2015. However, the under-five mortality rate in Kerala is 16 per 1,000 live births. It is 20 in Goa; 96 in Uttar Pradesh; 94 in Madhya Pradesh; and 85 in Rajasthan.

A report of UNICEF estimates, 1.83 million children under-five die every year in India. Globally, it was estimated that an annual rate of decline of 4.4 per cent is needed to achieve the MDG-4. But, UNDP report said that this rate is just at 2.3 per cent. 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, India needs to reduce under-five mortality to 39 per 1000 live birth. According to some estimates, the required rate of decline from 2009 to 2015 per year has gone up to 6.28 per cent to achieve MDG-4. Some studies project required rate at 7.9 percent.

Even, the performance of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is better that India at the front of child mortality rate. In Bangladesh, this is at 61 per 1000 live birth and Sri Lanka only 21 children dies per 1000 live birth. These countries are very small in comparison to India and they can not spend as much money as India can. But, despite this their performance is very well. Their performance reflects that for reducing child mortality rate there is no need to spend huge money but it needs will power and systematic management.

In India, policy makers love to make schemes and they take it as the end of their job. They never intend to do something to make some improvement at the front of implementation. Even, UNDP appreciated Nepal for reduction in child mortality rate. If India wishes to achieve MDG-4 then it needs to learn a lot at least from Sri Lanka.

This is the fourth article of a series on MDG. The next will appear on Thursday.

You can also read previous posts here-

Gender parity unlikely for India

Education is not for all

Poverty reduction remains sluggish

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