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Lack of health workers jeopardises infant survival rates

Moushumi Das Gupta

delhi Updated: Sep 21, 2011 01:01 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta

Children born in India are five times more likely to die before their fifth birthday because of lack of access to trained health workers.

India has a shortage of 2.6 million health workers, according to a new report released by Save the Children, an international NGO on Tuesday. This falls way below the World Health Organization health worker threshold of 2.3 health workers per 1000 people.

Madhya Pradesh tops the list with a shortage of 88 % health workers followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar at 87% and 82%.

According to the report, this shortfall means that close to 1.2 million children below the age of one die every year in India from easily preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea because of lack of access to a trained health worker which includes doctors at primary health centres, auxiliary nurse midwives and anganwadi workers.

“The report is cause for great concern as India has the highest number of children under 5 dying every year. Health workers are the backbone of health care systems. Without them, millions of mothers and children have little access to health care,” said Thomas Chandy, CEO, Save the Children. .

Globally there is a shortage of 3.5 million doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers in the world’s 49 poorest countries.

The report says that India has the highest number of children who do not receive even the most basic of healthcare services amongst 25 developing countries. While over 55 per cent children under the age of two do not receive comprehensive routine immunisation in India, another estimated 2.7 million children under the age of five fail to receive treatment for diarrhea.

India along with Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Congo accounts for more than half of the world’s 3.3 million new born deaths.

Among its other recommendations, the report has asked for an increase in per capita spending on health and providing for additional health workers.