Nearly two million children under the age of five die every year in India, but, shockingly, 80 per cent of people are unaware of the country's alarming child mortality rate, according to a survey.
The survey commissioned by the Global Movement for Children (GMC), a coalition of child rights organisations, found that eight in 10 respondents underestimate the levels of child mortality in India.
However, nearly 60 per cent felt that the problem of child mortality was "very serious", according to the survey conducted in five metros among middle class people.
"The middle class in India is small but it is the growing segment of society whose influence on policy makers is considerable," said Edouard Beigbeder, Chief Field Service, UNICEF, Delhi.
"It is critical for this category to be aware of the issues surrounding child mortality and be willing to take action for change to happen."
Thomas Chandy of 'Save the Children', an international child rights organisation which was part of the survey, said it was tragic that the majority of people underestimated the number of children dying every year.
"If people understood how affordable and feasible it is to prevent children dying, they'd be shocked. There is no real pressure for action largely because of lack of awareness of the scale of the problem."
According to UNICEF, about 1.83 million children under the age of five die every year in India -- the highest in the world. And 90 per cent of these deaths are due to easily preventable causes like pneumonia and diarrhoea.
The UN agency also says that India, which houses one-third of world's malnourished children, has 46 per cent of children under the age of three who are underweight.
The GMC survey was carried out to build awareness about child mortality ahead of the UN summit to be held in New York next month. The NGOs involved in the study wanted India to play a key role in tackling child mortality in that summit.
"The time is right for India to play a leadership role at the global summit in New York in order to drive momentum for tackling child mortality," said Dr Jayakumar Christian of World Vision India.
"We know that change is possible as we have already seen it in the States we work in India as well as in other countries."