The number of children under five dying has been on the rise despite the Capital being one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

As the city prepares to observe World Health Day on Wednesday, it also has to deal with the fact that its infant mortality rate has increased between 2003 and 2008 from 28 to 34 per 1,000 live births, according to NGO ‘Save the Children'. Diarrhoea is the major cause of death among children, accounting for 60 per cent of the deaths.

“There is a stark dichotomy here. On the one hand, Delhi has good health infrastructure. Yet the urban poor cannot access even the most basic of health care facilities,” said Save the Children CEO Thomas Chandy.

He said there was a tremendous increase in the city's population largely due to continuous migration from other cities. This has placed a huge pressure on social and health services. Much of the migrant population ends up in slums .

“The Economic Survey of Delhi 2008 points out that one in four households in Delhi does not have piped water supply and one out of five households do not have a toilet. Only 45.5 per cent of children under six have access to an Integrated Child Development Services centre. The percentage of underweight and malnourished children among Delhi's urban poor is almost double than that among non-urban poor,” said a release issued by the NGO.

“Delhi is a critical case in point of why the Government must revive the now-shelved national urban health mission. India has made a commitment to reducing the under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015. While the national rural health mission has made some headway in tackling child mortality in rural areas, the need for a similar programme for the urban poor is immediate. We cannot afford to have a programme to deliver health care to the rural poor while diarrhoea and malnutrition are wiping out generations of children in the national capital,” he said.

Almost 20 per cent of Delhi's population lives in slums. Only 4.2 per cent of the Capital's urban poor women get adequate antenatal care, 51.4 per cent of them are anaemic, only 16 per cent of these women give birth in institutions and only 63.2 per cent of children get full immunisation, noted the release.

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