Even as news reports of deaths of children have become commonplace in the country, a UN report has pointed out that India – along with four other countries – is responsible for half of all newborn deaths in the world.
Titled “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2017” , the report from the UNICEF and its partners in the Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), furnishes data of child mortality and newborn mortality across the world.
“The largest number of newborn deaths occurred in Southern Asia (39 percent), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (38 percent). Five countries accounted for half of all newborn deaths: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia”, the report observed.
At the country level, half of all neonatal deaths are concentrated in five countries – India (24%), Pakistan (10%), Nigeria (9%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4%) and Ethiopia (3%).
India and Pakistan alone accounted for about a third of all newborn deaths.
The report, however, stated that “over the past 25 years, the world has made significant progress in saving young children’s lives. The rate of child mortality fell 62 percent from 1990–2016, with under-five deaths dropping from 12.7 million to 5.6 million”.
But the report also pointed out that the progress attained over the past 25-years has not been universal.
The child deaths in various parts of India substantiate the findings in the report.
In Uttar Pradesh, the deaths of more than 70 children at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur had made headlines in the second week of August. Since then, a series of deaths have occurred in the hospital due to the negligence of hospital administration and the health department.
In Jharkhand, more than 800 children died in two hospitals in the state this year. A total of 660 children died at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Ranchi while 164 deaths were reported from May to August from Jamshedpur’s Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
Recent reports from these hospitals say that the ghastly episodes still continue. Instead of resolving the issues in the public healthcare system in these states, the BJP-led governments in Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand have tried to wash their hands off by blaming the doctors and the health condition of the children.
Data by the Economic Survey of India 2017 shows that India spends only 4% of its GDP on healthcare, which is less than half of that in Brazil and South Africa.
Besides, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Health Statistics 2014 states that India had an average of just 0.7 physicians per 1,000 population, below the OECD average of 3.2, while the average of nurses was 1.1 per 1,000 population, much lower than the OECD average of 8.8.
The neglect of the public healthcare system is not new in the country. Even though, the National Health Policy 2017 has proposed to increase the public spending on healthcare from a 1% to 2.5% of the GDP by 2020, which itself is below the world average of 5.99%. But the budget of the 2016-17 fiscal hasn’t shown much interest in the healthcare sector.