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Time we saved our infants

Monday - February 4, 2019 2:13 am , Category : WTN SPECIAL

WTN: In India infant mortality is rampant, that makes the country irredeemably poor in human development index. Malnutrition and poor hygiene and sanitation spawned by ignorance and poverty lead to hundreds of baby deaths in towns and villages. Sadly, the deaths are mostly of female babies, for the obvious reason that the male member is more welcome in the family than the female newborn, especially in the backward states. The most striking infant mortality rate is that of Madhya Pradesh, which has a shocking 70 deaths per 1,000 newborns, that places it only behind Odisha having a high of around 90 deaths. UP, MP, Bihar and Rajasthan comprise over 50 per cent of infant deaths.

Malnutrition is a chronic problem in India, though it is a paradox that we are a food surplus country and grains rot in godowns for want of takers. Simply, it is faulty mechanism of distribution and efficient implementation that continues to abet malnutrition. The government hospitals in most villages are defunct. The doctors play truant, hygiene is compromised, the staff are arrogant and there is lack of equipment. Second is illiteracy and ignorance. Despite ‘half-hearted’ campaigns, deliveries at home are common, as people loath to go to the hospitals for fear of detention, misbehavior and pecuniary drain. Again, lack of communication facilities delay the arrival of the expectant mother to the hospital that complicates matters.

The newborn is so delicate and prone to infections that any negligence, even inadvertently, can immediately put life at stake. No matter how carefully a baby is delivered at home, the risk of infections always is much higher than in a hospital, where even in case of infections, early detection and immediate medication is possible. Then, immunization, an important factor to save lives is not done timely or followed up regularly, that increases the mortality ratio. Closely related to this is the mindset of the people that doesn’t lay much importance on food. Till the age of 5 at least, the child needs ample food, including mother’s milk, fruits, grains and nutritional supplements that ensure a healthy immunity.

Also due to poverty, coupled with comparative insecurity of girls in society and dowry pressure in later life, there are incidents of female babies abandoned at temple doors and thrown away in garbage bins or even sold away. The direct impact of this is death of numerous babies. It needs a long-term, multi-pronged approach in various levels, involving various stakeholders from NGOs to governments to stem the blot. It needs a massive Centre-sponsored programme like MNREGS or PMGSY to be implemented at earnest, with constant monitoring by an independent body like the Election Commission.

The Janani Surakhsa Yojana of MP is a commendable step that could be replicated in other states. But, strict adherence to the tenets of the scheme and its exquisite implementation need some more doing, with action against dereliction. So far, attempts on the national level have been feeble, though schemes are floated from time to time.

It must be ensured that the hospitals are well equipped and doctors remain on duty and are caring. Roads to the hospitals must be spruced up and easy access from villages established. Sanitation facilities must be improved and literacy/awareness programmes must be taken up to guide the village folk with the dos and don’ts at the time of birth and later. NGOs can be roped in to track the birth of a child and its proper development through the early years, so that laxity on part of parents due to ignorance or resource crunch does not occur.

The legal and administrative coordinates must be strengthened so that negligence on any one’s part is tackled seriously and immediately. All that is needed is willingness to apply and implement. Unless such multi-level strategy is taken up with honesty, no big reduction in IMR can be expected in near future, which is of grave significance for a nation that banks upon its human resources.-Window To News