Infant mortality is defined as the death of a child before his or her first birthday. India is the country that suffers from the highest rates of infant mortality in the world. According to the United Nations, there was a daily average of 1,975 infant deaths in India in 2018. The majority of these deaths (58%) are newborns under 28 days old. 

According to UNICEF, at least half of all deaths below five can be prevented by providing skilled health care at birth and quality postnatal care. India only spends 1.5% of its GDP on healthcare. One of the most fundamental problems is the inaccessibility of healthcare, due to its expense on the individual. As a result of the cost, many births are dangerous for both the mother and her child. Moreover, the lack of education is a key trigger: raising a child is difficult enough, but not having the facilities or the knowledge of what to do makes it nearly impossible. 

Another problem is child marriage. Whilst India officially banned child marriage in 2006, it is still very relevant. Currently, India has registered 15 million child marriages and has many more unofficial child marriages. One in five girls (in the age category of 20-24 years old) has already given birth before her 18th birthday. Newborns from child marriages have a higher mortality rate, with malnutrition being a key reason for their deaths. For example, Uttar Pradesh is the state in India that has the highest number of child mothers and has the worst healthcare indicators in the country. 

Poverty has so many ways of causing infant mortality. Low birth weight is considered to be a driving front of child mortality, according to the Million Death Study. Malnutrition, both for the mother and for the baby, are another reason directly linked with poverty. Finally, the resources are either too expensive for individuals, or simply not there in the different states. 

Children are the basis for the future and with these depressing statistics, it can be easy to feel very helpless and unsure of what to do. However, all is not lost. In 2017, it was revealed that India’s mortality rate for children under 5 had fallen by 66% since 1990. While there is still a long way to go, it does suggest that there is hope for the future. Furthermore, this suggests that the governments’ interventions and their ‘Millennium Development Goals’- mainly initiated by  ‘five-year plans’ do have some success. There has also been a large help from international charities, such as Save the Children and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) for Mothers, as well as the UN. The 7th November is Infant Protection Day, which focuses on raising awareness about infant safety and how to care for a newborn child. Education is a huge part of helping to raise a child, and this day aims to spread the word about safety. We can see more and more attention turning from the Indian government to infant mortality, and we hope to see more and more successive measures in reducing this terrible tragedy.

Alex Horwich

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