Indias infant mortality rate (IMR) reduced by 16 points over the last 10 years — 41 children below the age of one died per 1,000 live births, down from 57 a decade ago, according to the India fact-sheet of the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), the largest-ever assessment of the countrys health and family welfare indicators.
The survey, released after a decade — the last survey was in 2005-06 — reveals a 24-point reduction in under-five mortality rate: From 74 children under five dying for every 1,000 live births in 2005-06, it is now 50 — comparable to the poorer African island nation of Madagascar.
As many as 62 per cent of Indian children between the ages of 12 and 23 months were fully immunised — for BCG, measles, and three doses each for polio and diphtheria and tetanus — up from 43.5 per cent in 2005-06.
Immunisation is known to be the most cost-effective method to prevent disease and death. Every year, India loses 500,000 children under the age of two due to diseases preventable by vaccination, according to a March 2015 Press Information Bureau report.
As many as 90.7 per cent of children were immunised in public-health facilities, compared with 82 per cent in 2005-06; children immunised in private facilities dropped from 10.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 7.2 per cent.
The proportion of children under the age of five who reported suffering from diarrhoea in the two weeks preceding the survey was nearly constant over the decade — 9.2 per cent in 2015-16 compared to 9 per cent in 2005-06.
However, the proportion of children with diarrhoea who received the recommended treatment of oral rehydration salts (50.6 per cent) doubled compared to a decade ago (26 per cent).
More children with diarrhoea were taken to a health facility (67.9 per cent) compared to 2005-06 (61.3 per cent) — indicating increased awareness about common childhood diseases and recommended treatment among parents.
There was a 10 percentage-point decrease in stunted children — low height-for-age — below age five: From 48 per cent in 2005-06 to 38.4 per cent in 2015-16.
There was also a seven-percentage-point decrease in children under five who were underweight (low weight-for-age), from 42.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 35.7 per cent in 2015-16.
Fewer children between aged 59 months to six years suffered from anaemia in 2015-16, (58.4 per cent) compared to 69.4 per cent in 2005-06.
However, the proportion of children under five who were wasted — low weight-for-height — increased from 19.8 per cent to 21 per cent. The number of severely wasted children increased from 6.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent.