The Telegraph
Sunday , August 10 , 2014
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Fewer baby deaths spur hope

Ranchi, Aug. 9: Jharkhand has recorded the lowest infant mortality rate (IMR) of 36 per 1,000 live births among nine poor states in the country, thanks to massive immunisation drives and healthcare initiatives here.

The 2012-13 annual health survey (AHS) has revealed that Jharkhand fared better than Assam and seven “empowered action group” states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Odisha with high fertility and mortality rates.

The AHS report was announced earlier this year, but a fact-sheet containing a comprehensive health profile with district-wise data was recently released by the vital statistics division of the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India that conducted the survey.

Though the overall infant mortality rate in Jharkhand has come down over the years, a detailed analysis of the AHS report presents a stark difference between the rate of infant deaths in urban and rural segments of the state. Also, available data shows that some districts have done well in arresting infant mortality, while others are lagging far behind.

Districts of Bokaro (28), Dhanbad (26), Giridih (28), Koderma (27) and East Singhbhum (25) have already achieved the United Nation’s 4th Millennium Development Goal (MDG4) of restricting infant mortality to 28 per 1,000 child births. Hazaribagh (29), Ranchi (30) and Deoghar (31) are also inching closer to the set target.

But, Lohardaga, West Singhbhum, Godda, Pakur and Sahebganj — the five districts where infant mortality rates range between 52 and 54 — have a long way to go. Similarly, urban areas have recorded IMR at 22, while rural areas stand far behind at 40.

Deputy director (health services) Ajeet Kumar Prasad admitted that the healthcare system was yet to reach every nook and corner of the state. “A larger segment of the rural areas is yet to be covered. Lack of awareness among poor people and the absence of basic healthcare facilities are the main reasons behind high infant mortality rate in rural areas,” he added.

On the poor performance of the five districts, Prasad said institutional delivery was yet to gain popularity, resulting in newborn deaths. “Also, lack of proper care for pregnant women is also a major cause for concern,” he added.

Job Zachariah, the head of state Unicef that is actively involved with government interventions in addressing the issue, said the number of institutional deliveries was low in these five districts. “Poor breastfeeding habit was also proving detrimental,” he added.

Zachariah said the focus should be on districts with high infant mortality. “Awareness is the need of the hour. Mothers who are medically aware will definitely go for institutional deliveries, breastfeed their babies immediately after birth and continue for six months,” he opined.

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