Nearly 1.26 million children in India under the age of 5 die each year.
Of these deaths, 57 percent occur during the first 28 days of birth, called the neonatal period, with prematurity and neonatal infections being two of the predominant causes of death.
The major cause of death in children after the neonatal period has been linked to diarrhea and pneumonia, with more than 380,000 new cases of pneumonia being reported every year.
As per statistics from the Registrar General of India's Sample Registration System (SRS) 2013, it is alarming to note the mortality rates.
The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is pegged sadly at 40 per 1,000 live births, the Neonatal Mortality Rate (NMR) is 28 per 1,000 live births, and the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) is the highest at 49 per 1,000 live births.
India tops the list of 15 countries in terms of under-5 deaths due to disease. The remaining 14 countries on this list are Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo, Ethiopia, Angola, China, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Sudan, Bangladesh, Niger, Chad and Uganda.
Emphasizing on the need and importance of vaccinations to minimize infant and neonatal mortality, the Health Minister of India J.P. Nadda said that the government has decided to provide free pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) to children as part of the Universal Immunization Programme.
The vaccination will be administered in three doses. The first dose will be given when the child is 6 weeks old, the second at 14 weeks and a booster at 9 months.
Over and beyond this, other necessary actions are being implemented to tackle this drastic situation prevailing in the country.
"Newer interventions to reduce newborn mortality have also been implemented, including vitamin K injection at birth, antenatal corticosteroids in preterm labor, kangaroo mother care and empowering ANMs [Auxiliary Nurse Midwives] to provide injection gentamicin to young infants for possible serious bacterial infection," said the Health Minister.
Nadda also mentioned that in a joint effort, the Indian government along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are establishing a new tool for identifying congenital anomalies, called the Birth Defects Surveillance System (BDSS).
Furthermore, in order to enable real-time monitoring of the stocks of vaccine, the government has initiated an SMS-based electronic vaccine intelligence network (e-VIN) at around 4,500 cold storage points.
Additionally, to maximize the focus on low-performing areas, the government has identified 184 High-Priority Districts (HPDs) for implementation of Reproductive Maternal Newborn Child Health+ Adolescent (RMNCH+A) interventions for achieving improved maternal and child health outcomes.
Photo: Ben Garrison | Flickr