05/28/2010, 00.00
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Infant mortality drops 5 per cent in India

In 2010, under-5 mortality is expected to drop to 7.7 million worldwide. In 1990, it stood at 12 million. The Catholic Church is the second largest health care provider in India. It runs 5,000 health care facilities, 70 per cent in the poorest and remotest areas of the country.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Under-5 mortality has dropped by 4-5 per cent annually in India, this according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington, which recently released a study of 187 countries, covering the 1970-2009 period.

Scientists expect 7.7 million children under five to die this year, down from nearly 12 million in 1990. They include 3.1 million neonatals, 2.3 million post-neonatals and 2.3 million deaths of children aged one to four.

Worldwide under-5 mortality has been cut by 35 per cent since 1990 with an annual average drop of 2 per cent. This still falls short of the 4.4 per cent deemed necessary to meet the United Nations target of cutting infant mortality by two thirds by 2015.

At present, only 31 developing countries are on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child deaths by 66 per cent between 1990 and 2015. However, scientists note a significant improvement across the board.

In 1990, 12 countries had an under-5 mortality rate of more than 200 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today, no country has an under-5 mortality rate that high, despite persistent large-scale poverty and deprivation.

For its part, India has met UN targets. The study found that 20 fewer children per 1,000 live births (before the 28th day) are dying now compared to 1990. In the case of post-neonatal deaths, India is now losing 15 fewer lives per 1,000 live births than it did in 1990. Among children aged 1 to 4 years, nearly 30 fewer children are dying now than 20 years back.

Sister Georgina, director of the Holy Cross Hospital in Ambikapur, Chattisgarh (central India), spoke to AsiaNews about the role of the Church, through its health care services, in cutting neo-natal and child mortality.

The nun, who has been involved in the health care sector since the late 1960s, founded the Raigarh Ambikapur Health Association (RAHA).

“In those days, 1968, we had to travel on foot to the most interior areas to provide medical help to the villagers who were steeped in ignorance, poverty, malnutrition and superstition”.

“We established 96 health centres in remote rural areas—which were absolutely inaccessible. With no government support, we were able to bring medical care and reduce infant mortality.”

“The Church,” she said, “is the second largest health care provided after the government”.

It runs 5,000 health care facilities, 70 per cent of which are located in some of the remotest and most inaccessible corners of the country; inspired by Mother Teresa, whose motto was “Caring for the poorest among the poor”.

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