United Nations, Sept 9: 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 report which warned that 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, diarrhoea 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 per cent 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. Further, the probability of dying among children aged 5–14 years declined from 21 in 1990 to 5 in 2019 (447,000 deaths in 1990 to 136,000 deaths in 2019) and the probability of dying among youth aged 15–24 years dipped from 24 to 10 (407,000 deaths to 246,000 deaths) between the period under review.
The sex-specific under-five mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in India in 1990 stood at 122 males and 131 females and this declined to 34 males and 35 females in 2019.
The regions of Central and Southern Asia and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand) both saw a faster decline in under-five mortality from 2010-2019 compared to 2000-2009.
However, the global burden of under-five deaths weighs most heavily on just two regions – sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia. The report said that about 53 per cent of all under-five deaths in 2019 – 2.8 million – occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, and roughly 1.5 million children (28 per cent) died in 2019 before reaching age 5 in Central and Southern Asia.
These two regions alone accounted for more than 80 per cent of the 5.2 million global under-five deaths in 2019, but they only accounted for 52 per cent of the global under-five population.