Bengal Is Attacked For Infant Deaths, But Statistics Tell A Different Story
Not Enough Health Centres So, what are Bengal’s problem areas? A NRHM review, done towards the end of 2007 said the state had established state-of-the-art State New Born Units (SNCU) at district and sub district hospitals. Activists were chosen from women of the community, trained and then started to assist the 4 Medical Officers and 6 staff nurses in such units. However, while the target was to set up 40 SNCU’s by 2012, only 6 were established. The incremental target in 2010-2011 was reduced to 24 but till March 2011, only 1 was established. In all, 6 Nutritional Rehabilitation Centres (NRC) were set up by 2012, but the target was 26. Only 105 of the 671 New Born Care Corners (NBCC) were set up in Sub Centres, Primary Health Centre and District hospitals. The Integrated Management of Neo Natal and Childhood Illness (IMNCI), is running in only 6 of 19 districts. Though, children seeking medical care for Acute Respiratory Infection have come down from 82% to 77%. Infant Mortality In India Now, let’s look at the overall landscape for infant mortality in India.
Some 300 infant or crib deaths were reported from different hospitals in West Bengal since January 2012. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came under considerable flak at the time. Ms Banerjee went on to blame the previous Left Front Government for the deaths saying they were in power for 34 years during which crib deaths averaged more than 40,000 every year. Blaming the media for sensationalism, she claimed instead that her Government (in power since May 2011) had brought down the rate of crib deaths by 2%. Moreover, she claimed she would bring down the death rate by 25%.IndiaSpend’s Sourjya Bhowmick contrasts Ms Banerjee’s claims against data from other states in India and also delves deeper into the country’s infant mortality track record, particularly against the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Infant Mortality Indicators The most stark data point is that West Bengal ranks among the top 5 performing states when it comes to Child Mortality. Here’s how:
- West Bengal scores high on the RCH (Reproductive and Child Health) programme of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which sets an Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) target of less than 30 by 2012. Bengal has an IMR of 33, based on the Sample Registration System bulletin, 2009.
- Moreover, since 2007, Bengal’s IMR has been reducing at the rate of 2 points per year. Therefore it is highly possible that at present, West Bengal’s IMR is 30, or less.
- Bengal scores 19 for Early Neo Natal Mortality Rate (infant deaths within 1 week of birth, expressed per 1,000) while the national average is 27. Bengal again features in the top 5 performing state. Kerala is the best performer (13), while Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh is the worst performer (45), as on 2009.
- A NRHM 2009 document also shows that 76% of Bengal’s children between 12-23 months had received full immunization as compared to the national average at 54%.
- Every year about 1.5 million children below the age of 5 years have died, while the world average is 9.2 million. This is also known as the Under 5 Mortality Rate (U5MR). This is the highest for any country.
- Nearly 26 million infants are born each year, out of these nearly 1 million die before they complete 4 weeks.
- Every 6th death in the country pertains to an infant.