Infant mortality rate: Target set by Millennium Development Goals not met

Unlike previous years, data for only 23 states and UTs has been released in the report. Information for other states will be released later.

June 26, 2016 01:48 am | Updated October 18, 2016 03:12 pm IST

Sample Registration System (SRS) Bulletin 2014, published by the Registrar General of India and was released earlier this month shows that none of the ten big states (for which data is available) have been able to reduce the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) as per the target set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Unlike previous years, data for only 23 states and UTs has been released in the report. Information for other states will be released later.

Under MDG 4, one of the targets is to reduce Infant Mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. At the national level, it translates into a goal of reducing IMR from 88 per thousand live births in 1990 to 29 in 2015. IMR of India as of 2013 was 40 per thousand live births and it’s unlikely that India will achieve the target. The national average for 2014 is awaited.

Among the 23 states and UTs for which data has been released, six Union Territories – Delhi, Puducherry, Daman & Diu, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli – and four small North Eastern states –Nagaland, Sikkim, Manipur, Tripura – have IMR less than the national target of 29 per thousand live births.

Madhya Pradesh continues to be the worst among the states followed by Odisha, Assam and Uttar Pradesh. In fact, none of the ten big states for which data has been released are even close to the national target.

From 1990 to 2014, among states where IMR is greater than 40 – the national average as of 2013 – the slowest pace of reduction in IMR was found in Meghalaya (15 per cent), Assam (35 per cent), Bihar (44 per cent) and Rajasthan (45 per cent). As per MDG, the target was to reduce IMR by 66 per cent by 2015.

A closer look at the data shows that girls share a higher burden of infant deaths. Apart from Assam, Nagaland and Daman & Diu, female IMR is higher in other states (for which data was released).

Speaking with The Hindu , Thomas Chandy, CEO of ‘Save the Children’ said, “We need to focus all services for maternal health and infant health but we are not investing enough as of now. The services are not reaching the most marginalised sections of the society.” A report by his organisation in 2010 states that child mortality in the poorest quintile is almost three times higher than in the richest quintile in India.

Apart from IMR, a careful analysis of the long-term trends in some of the major drivers of IMR is much needed, says Purnima Menon, Senior Research Fellow in IFPRI’s Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division.

“It’s a good time to remember that poor nutrition contributes to almost 45% of under-five mortality. It also especially increases the risk of mortality from neonatal infections, pneumonia, diarrhea – all of which are major contributors to infant mortality,” she said.

Dr. Menon further added, “Interventions to improve neonatal mortality are a focused set of services that need attention within the health system. A major underlying driver of poor outcomes for mothers and children is early pregnancy, something that has not received enough attention in programs and policies.”

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