16,539 infant deaths in Maharashtra in 2018-19
The state government, while claiming that its infant mortality rate was brought down drastically over the past five years, admitted in the legislative Assembly that 16,539 children died in 2018-19, before they attained the age of one.
In a written reply, public health minister Eknath Shinde informed the lower house on Friday that under the Sustainable Development Goal, Maharashtra has set the goal of bringing the infant mortality rate to 10 per 1000 children by 2030. “We have been able to bring it to 19 today, from 22 in 2014,” he said.
According to the report of the Health Management Information System (HMIS), 17,197 children in the age group of 0-365 days died in 2016-17, while it had gone up to 17,265 in 2017-18. The government has, however, denied that the children died owing to the apathy of the government machinery and has attributed the numbers to pneumonia, respiratory distress, viral infection and low weight, among other reasons.
Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the Opposition benches had raised the question about the report of 1,763 infant deaths in Mumbai and its suburbs last year. The MLAs, including Praniti Shinde, Nirmala Gavit, Harshavardhan Sakpal (all Congress), questioned the government how they were going to achieve its 2030 target.
Neonatal (0-28 days) deaths, too, had increased in 2017-18 to 13,069 from 10,348 in 2016-17. The department has not given the figures for 2018-19. “There are a slew of measures taken by the state government to reduce infant mortality rate. Right from the check-ups of women during pregnancy, promoting institutional deliveries, mother-child protection programmes, regular vaccinations, deworming drives to motherhood grants to ensure due care of the children. We have adequate number of incubators, ventilators in 1,828 primary health centres, 10,668 sub-centres, along with mobile clinics,” he said.
Meanwhile, the public health department has also admitted to a rise in the number of bronchial-asthma cases among children owing to pollution. In 2018-19, 4,185 children in the state suffered from the disease, while the number went up to 6,886 in 2018-19
Mumbai registered the highest number of cases at 2,401, followed by 1,121 in Pune, according to the records by the end of May this year.