The recently concluded Freedom Series between the Indian and South African cricket teams was a eulogy to the greatest leaders of peace, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Both had a vision of a just and egalitarian society, and the bilateral series served as a reminder of their ideals and our duty to uphold them. However, the two countries still face huge challenges, especially on the health front.
Poor health indicators rob a nation of its achievements and progressive credentials. Our country is still home to the highest number of child deaths in the world, with more than 3,000 children dying every day. What’s more appalling is that most of these deaths are preventable through timely and full immunisation.
As children, for us one commonly heard instruction was “prevention is better than cure”. It was part of our fundamental lessons, and rightly so. In this day and age, we have the advantage of advanced tools such as immunisation to guard our children against deadly diseases. Immunisation has broken several records — global eradication of smallpox and elimination of polio in most parts of the world, leading to a significant decline in child mortality worldwide.
Since it came to power, the Narendra Modi government has initiated programmes to ensure access to better healthcare for all. It has announced three new vaccines against rotavirus, rubella and polio virus free of cost under the Universal Immunisation Programme.
We also successfully implemented the first phase of the Mission Indradhanush campaign, aimed at improving immunisation coverage. At the recently concluded Global Call to Action Summit 2015, along with 24 other countries, we pledged to improve maternal and child health in the country. Next month, we are launching the rotavirus vaccine to protect children from diarrhoea, one of the leading killers of children. These measures are aimed at fighting the malaise of childhood diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia and measles, and provide a healthy and promising life to our children.
Nearly 15 years ago, in the year 2000, as part of its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), India had committed itself to reducing the child mortality rate by two-thirds. Like they say in cricket, a daunting run chase! Although we missed the target, there has been a 62% reduction in the under-five mortality rate since 1990, compared to the global average of 53% .
Through the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we take on the challenge of reducing neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births. Like the 1983 and 2011 World Cups, we once again have a chance to surprise ourselves and the world by chasing and achieving this target.
To achieve it, we need to act as Team India. It’s time to show the world yet again that we have a winning team, a team that will lead the battle of life for our children. As the Mahatma once said, “It is the health that is the real wealth, not pieces of gold or silver. More so, the health of our children.”
Anurag Thakur is a BJP MP in the Lok Sabha.
The views expressed are personal.