The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in India has come down to 50 (deaths per 1,000 live births) from 53, showing a reduction of three points as compared to 2008, and eight points since 2005, when the national average was 58.

The latest data released by the Registrar-General of India (RGI) in its Sample Registration System for the calendar year of 2009 shows a nine-point decline in rural IMR during 2005-2009 compared to six points in cities and towns.

The IMR is the lowest in Goa at 11, though it was 10 in 2008, followed by Kerala at 12.

The worst performers are Madhya Pradesh at 67, Orissa at 65, Uttar Pradesh at 63, and Assam at 61. In Tamil Nadu, the IMR has come down from 31 in 2008 to 28 in 2009.

The States and Union Territories that have recorded a four-point decline in the IMR in 2009 compared to 2008 are Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Orissa, Rajasthan, U.P., the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Daman and Diu, and Lakshadweep.

The States that recorded a three-point decline in 2009 compared to 2008 are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand, and Puducherry.

‘Not satisfied'

Crediting the implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) for the decline, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told journalists here on Thursday that he was still not satisfied with the figures as they were below the expectation of 30 by 2015, as stipulated under the Millennium Development Goals.

“However, these are the results since the NRHM was implemented, and we now want the programme to be extended,” Mr. Azad said.

The government will now focus on nine not-so-well performing States where the IMR is still above the national average of 50 — these include U.P., M.P., Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Uttarakhand, and Assam.

District-wise data

Mr. Azad said that from April this year, the district-wise data of these high-focus States will start coming in annually, which will further help the Ministry target the districts for better results. So far, the district-wise data would come only once in five years.

The Ministry gives Rs.145 crore every year to the RGI for collecting district-wise data. For overall improvement, the Ministry has identified 264 high-focus districts in 24 States and Union Territories.

Home-based deliveries

Importantly, the NRHM will also encourage home-based deliveries instead of focussing only on institutional deliveries, as it has been realised that several areas are still inaccessible and lack infrastructure.

To make the deliveries and post and pre-natal care better, the government is training the Accredited Social Health Activities (ASHAs) in reproductive and child health care, Mr. Azad said.