India losing fewer infants but still short of target
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A modest yet consistent decline in the infant mortality rate, especially in six problematic states, is one of the key features of the latest data from the Sample Registration System. Nationwide, the IMR has dropped by three points from 47 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 44, according to the October 2012 SRS bulletin. It has dropped to 48 from 51 in rural areas , and to 29 from 31 in urban areas, as compared to the previous count.
The comparison is between 2010 and 2011 for larger states, and between two three-year samples for smaller states and Union territories.
Despite the drop, the prevailing mortality rate remains much higher than the target set under the 11th five-year plan — 30 per 1,000 live births by 2012. Under the 12th five-year plan, India hopes to reduce the mortality rate to 25 by 2017.
Health ministry officials concede it is early days yet and a lot needs to be done, but find the consistent drop encouraging. Dr Ajay Khera, deputy commissioner (child health and immunisation) in the ministry, told The Indian Express that a three-point drop in a majority of states is a healthy sign.
"In six states — Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Sikkim — the decline by four points is an achievement," Khera said. States such as UP and Bihar continue to face major problems such as kala azar and pneumonia. Madhya Pradesh remains disappointing with an IMR of 59/1000, highest of all states, followed by UP and Orissa at 57/1000. All these states have, however, improved since last count.
The data shows 13 states as having reduced their IMRs by three points. These include Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka and some of the northeastern states.
There has been a drop of two to three points every year. Goa and Manipur have the lowest IMR, 11, followed by Kerala with 12.