Just 81 districts in India accounted for more than one-third of child mortality below five years of age in 2012 and half of these deaths were of girls, a new study published in the international journal Lancet has said.
The black spots for the Indian children are widespread with even districts in well-off states like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka being on the worst performing districts’ list.
The study on child mortality in 597 districts done by Indian and foreign academic institutes and published this Friday describes the finding as astonishing because it indicates that some parts of the country have not benefitted from the government’s interventions to reduce under-five child mortality.
Of the three districts where under-five child mortality has increased in 2012, two are in rich states -- Vadodara in Gujarat and Raichur in Karnataka. The third one is Jorhat in Assam. In all, six districts in Gujarat had high child mortality rate, five in Andhra Pradesh, three in Arunachal Pradesh, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one each in Himachal and Karnataka.
In 2012, 1.5 million under-five child deaths were reported in 597 districts of which 71% were in the nine poorer states, which accounted for half of India’s population.
Rayagada in Orissa had the highest under-five child mortality rate of 133 deaths for 1,000 live births, even more than an African country like Kenya. Sheopur in Madhya Pradesh was second worst with 130.8 deaths. Even Delhi’s neighbourhood town of Ghaziabad had a higher child mortality rate than Dibrugarh district in Assam.
The slow pace of reduction in under-five child mortality meant that India reported 57.3 deaths for 1,000 live births in 2012. Based on this finding, the study calculated that the country would miss the millennium development goal target (MDG) of 38 deaths for 1,000 live births. Only 222 of 597 districts are on track to meet the MDG by 2015 whereas the remaining would meet the target by 2020, the study said.
The study also showed that the probability of a girl dying within five years of her birth was higher than a boy. For 100 boys who die within five years of their birth, 131 girl deaths were
reported, the study based on government data for child mortality states.
“Female mortality at ages 1-59 months exceeded male mortality by 25% in 303 districts in nearly all states of India, totalling about 74,000 excess deaths in girls,” the study’s lead author Prabhat Jha said.
Uttar Pradesh had highest number of districts recording higher girl deaths than boys followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. The trend is also noticed to a lesser extend in richer states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.