New Delhi: India’s child mortality rate has declined substantially between 1990 and 2019 but the country, along with Nigeria, still accounted for almost a third of all under-five deaths last year, according to a new UN report which warned that the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to undo decades of progress in eliminating preventable child deaths globally.
The Levels & Trends in Child Mortality‘ Report 2020 said that the number of global under-five deaths dropped to its lowest point on record in 2019 down to 5.2 million from 12.5 million in 1990.
Over the past 30 years, health services to prevent or treat causes of child death such as preterm, low birth weight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria, as well as vaccination, have played a large role in saving millions of lives.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress toward eliminating preventable child deaths.
According to the new mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the World Bank Group, the under-five mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in India declined to 34 in 2019 from 126 in 1990.
The country registered a 4.5 percent annual rate of reduction in under-five mortality between 1990-2019. The number of under-five deaths in India dropped from 3.4 million in 1990 to 824,000 in 2019.
The infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in India declined from 89 in 1990 to 28 last year, with the country registering 679000 infant deaths last year, a significant decline from 2.4 million infant deaths in 1990.
The country also witnessed a decrease in neonatal mortality rate between 1990 and 2019 from 57 to 22 – 1.5 million neonatal deaths in 1990 to 522,000 deaths in 2019.
Even before COVID-19, newborns were at the highest risk of death. In 2019, a newborn baby died every 13 seconds. Moreover, 47 percent of all under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period, up from 40 percent in 1990. With severe disruptions in essential health services, newborn babies could be at a much higher risk of dying.
On current trends, about 48 million children under 5 years of age will die between 2020 and 2030, half of them newborns. More than half (57 percent) of these 48 million deaths will occur in sub-Saharan Africa (28 million) and 25 percent in Central and Southern Asia (12 million).