Madhya Pradesh is the worst place to be born in India — and it has been so for more than a decade.
For 11th year in a row, the state has registered the highest infant mortality rate in the country, says the latest Sample Registration System report for 2013 released on Sunday by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
Infant mortality rate is the number of deaths of infants under one year per 1,000 live births. It is the go-to figure to measure a state’s health. And for Madhya Pradesh, the rate is 54. At the national level, it is 40.
There is company for Madhya Pradesh at the bottom of the list. The state now shares the worst-performer status with Assam, which till last year was the second worst performing state.
However, the state is making slow but steady progress. The infant mortality rate shrunk from 79 in 2004 to 54 in 2013. But the progress pales against top performers. Kerala stands tall on the podium with 12, trailed by Tamil Nadu with a rate of 21 and Maharashtra and Delhi with 24.
Sachin Jain is an activist working for children’s health and nutrition issues and advisor to the Supreme Court-appointed commissioners in Right to Food case. He sums up the reason for the state’s poor record: “High malnutrition rate, poor access to health services, lack of facilities to deal with serious child ailment cases at district/block levels, and poor referral system to higher centres in government healthcare set-up are the underlying factors for high mortality in infants.”
He said, “There is a severe shortage of child specialists in government sector with up to 50% posts vacant for several years.”
But not everything is grim for the state. The Sample Registration System report shows the state has bettered its neonatal mortality rate, which is the number of neonates dying before reaching 28 days of age per 1,000 live births in a year, and Under Five Mortality Rate that tells how many children died before their 5th birthday per 1,000 live births.
The state has shown highest decline of 3 points in neonatal mortality rate –from 39 in 2012 to 36 in 2013 – allowing it to hide behind Odisha, which registered highest neonatal mortality of 37 compared to 39 in 2012. The dip at national level is merely one point – from 29 to 28. Kerala tops the chart with just 6 deaths per 1000 live births in 2013.
On the ‘under five mortality rate’ front, the state has registered highest decline of 4 points –from 73 in 2012 to 69 in 2013. It still continues to hold the second worst spot behind Assam (73). The national decline in this category between 2012 and 2013 is 3 points — 52 to 49.
Pravir Krishn, the principal secretary of Madhya Pradesh health department, said: “NMR is the toughest to bring down and since progress has been made there, we are sure on the right track.”
He said the Mamta Abhiyan had activated an army of one lakh frontline health workers who would help bring down the infant mortality rate to 25 in the next two years. “We shall certainly get there,” he told Hindustan Times.
Girl children more vulnerable
The latest IMR data again shows that the girl children continue to be more vulnerable across the country, including Madhya Pradesh. The IMR for girls in Madhya Pradesh stands at 55 per 1000 live births compared to 52 for the boys. The average IMR for girls in the country is 42 compared to 39 for the boys.
At a glance
Indicator IMR NMR U5MR
Madhya Pradesh 54 36 69
Assam 54 27 73
Odisha 51 37 66
India 40 28 49
(Sample Registration Survey, 2013)