Despite India’s economic prosperity, nearly two million children under the age of five, die every year in the country, the highest number anywhere in the world, a media report said on Sunday.

More than half of them die the month after birth and 4,00,000 in their first 24 hours, The Observer said based on a report by an international NGO Save the Children.

Even in the national capital, New Delhi, where an estimated 20 per cent of people live in slums, the infant mortality rate doubled in a year, the report said.

“The difference between the rich and the poor is huge. In a city like Delhi it is starker because we have got state-of-the-art hospitals and women giving birth under flyovers. The health services have failed to deliver,” Shireen Miller, Head of Policy and Advocacy, Save the Children, said.

The report also revealed that the poor are disproportionately affected and accused India of failing to provide adequate healthcare for the impoverished majority of one billion people.

Malnutrition, neonatal diseases, diarrhoea and pneumonia were identified as the major causes of death.

“For many poor parents and their children, seeking medical help is a luxury and health services are often too far away,” Ms. Miller said.

The report said that nearly nine million children die worldwide every year before the age of five. India has the highest number of deaths, with China on the fifth place.

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