Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data shows between April 2013 and March 2014, 949 children did not live to see their fifth birthday. The corresponding period last year saw the deaths of 810 children.
CMR (child mortality rate) refers to the number of deaths against 1,000 births of children aged between 0 and 5. Infant mortality also refers to the same ratio, but with regard to children below one year of age.
In the latter category, the city saw a silver lining. Infant mortality for the year dropped 11% this year – from 5,161 to 4,505.
The increase in the child deaths between age 1-5 has maintained the overall child mortality rate to almost the same as last year.
“When infant deaths are also added, overall CMR stands at 32 per 1000 live births, just as it was last year,” a health department official at BMC said.
Dr KP Sanghavi, paediatrician, Jaslok Hospital, offered another reason for the death of children in the 1-5 age group.“Jam-packed school classes and lack of aeration leads to contracting deadly infections,” he said.
Mumbai’s CMR is lesser than the national average of 57 deaths. But that’s cold comfort when compared with certain other piece of statistics. Pathanamthitta district in Kerala recorded only nine deaths, and Chennai 15 deaths.
India has set a CMR target of 19 by 2035. At the slow rate of reduction in child deaths and stagnation in urban cities like Mumbai, that seems like a far cry.
The increase in child deaths between 1-5 age group has done little to nudge the government into action. Doctors say the Union health ministry is not introducing vaccines recommended by WHO into the country’s immunisation programme even now.
“WHO has recommended pneumonococcal, rotavirus and Haemophilus influenzae type B(HiB), but the central government is dragging its feet,” said Sanghavi.
“HiB has been introduced on a pilot basis in Tamil Nadu. But Maharashtra has not been included in feasibility studies,” said a senior Union Health Ministry official.
Doctors suggest additional vaccines, even though expensive, should be introduced. “A long-term study to see if pneumococcal vaccines will work against local pneumonia virus strains has been under way for two years. These vaccines cost between Rs 200 and Rs 3,200 and their efficacy should be studied,” said Dr Mamta Mangalani, head, department of paediatrics, BMC-run Sion Hospital.