NEW DELHI — In 2015, about 1.2 million Indian children died before reaching the age of five. This confirmed India as having the highest number of child deaths in the world. Further, infant mortality remains as high as 63 deaths per 1,000 live births. In order to address these startling statistics, government and health officials are taking action to prioritize reducing child mortality in India.
Child mortality rates can be attributed to one of two main categories of factors: access to quality medical care before and after birth and social determinants such as financial status and community health education.
While the pressing issue of child mortality in the most populated country in the world has been addressed in the past, improvements have slowed in recent years and Indian healthcare officials are calling for help. Fortunately, a number of global and local organizations are stepping up to the plate, determined to effect change surrounding this issue.
CARE, an organization that works around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice, recently joined the global effort to reduce child mortality in India. CARE’s main goals are to increase the access, availability and affordability of basic health services in order to address both the medical and social determinants of child mortality.
In order to achieve these ambitious goals, CARE takes a collaborative approach. In partnership with the state and central government in India as well as other nonprofit organizations, CARE works to identify the root causes of deficiencies in the healthcare system and then develops and implements innovative solutions to address these underlying causes.
One of CARE’s recent initiatives, Reproductive and Child Health Nutrition & Awareness (RACHNA), aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality as well as to improve menstrual hygiene and reproductive health in adolescent girls and women through education. Effective health education classes have the potential to greatly contribute to reducing child mortality in India because of their extensive reach and long-term effects. CARE predicts that this program alone will improve reproductive health knowledge and habits in more than 12,000 Indian households, leading to reductions in the dangerous prenatal habits that often result in child mortality.
Aside from reproductive health habits, major preventable causes of child mortality in India include vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, which remains the biggest killer, and tetanus. Almost one-third of deaths among children under five are preventable via vaccine. UNICEF makes it its mission to improve communication about the risks associated with going un-vaccinated and to open up access to vaccines in remote areas.
Vaccines are especially difficult to administer to isolated families, making many remote Indian villages especially vulnerable to disease. UNICEF administered an average of ten doses of oral polio vaccine to children by 12 months of age in villages that the organization could reach. Through their communication efforts, they convinced all but one in 400 households in remote villages to get their children vaccinated.
According to CARE India, “a healthy mother and a healthy baby is the route to a productive, developed nation.” Through vaccination and education alone, government and nonprofit organizations are able to achieve great strides in reducing child mortality in India. As awareness of this critical issue spreads, new and innovative programs will come to the rescue of suffering mothers and children.
– Sarah Coiro