‘55% of children under two don't get comprehensive immunisation'

Over 55 per cent of children in the age group of 0-2 years do not receive comprehensive immunisation in the country and approximately 2.7 million children under five do not receive any treatment for diarrhoea, a major killer of children.

Among 25 developing countries, India has the highest number of children who do not receive even the most basic of health care services, according to new research by Save the Children. It also has the highest number of children under five dying every year.

According to Save the Children CEO Thomas Chandy, “The latest Sample Registration Data released in India shows that infant mortality has declined to 50 per 1,000 which is good but this obscures the larger picture. The existence of ‘healthcare deserts' shows that efforts to reduce child mortality are still sidelining the poorest children and this denial of basic health care is leaving them vulnerable to fatal conditions.”

Close to 1.2 million children under the age of one die every year in India of largely treatable and even preventable diseases and conditions. “Ironically, in cities like Delhi, large pockets can be classified as health care deserts where no primary health care is available for the urban poor.”

A health care desert refers to an existence where a child has not received any of the six routine immunisations including for killer diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, or treatment for a recent bout of diarrhoea.

Over 40 million children worldwide live in health care deserts, without receiving the most basic of healthcare services, including routine immunisation.

The new research shows that there are health care deserts in 25 developing countries, where up to one-third of all children do not receive vaccinations for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, or even basic treatment for diarrhoea. In some instances, areas are too remote and unreached by health care services. In most cases, the term ‘health care desert' describes a situation where services are unfamiliar, unknown, unaffordable, unavailable, or of such poor quality that people are not using them.

A severe shortage of health care workers fuels the existence of healthcare deserts. Access to health care and health care workers are crucial to keeping more children alive. Diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria — all largely preventable and treatable with adequate medical care — account for 40 per cent of under-five deaths with a further 36 per cent of deaths caused by neo-natal complications and infections.

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