In India, the under-five mortality rate for boys, in 2018, was 36 per 1,000 population while that for girls was 37.
By Arjun Mukherjee
The Indian government woke up to the problem during the 1991 census. By 2001, the problem had worsened and the government had to work in mission mode to correct the skewed sex ratio. Measures like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao have since helped, but data in a new UN report highlights that the country has one of the worst track records for gender disparities in child mortality.
Although the report UN doesn’t name the countries, it says seven countries fared badly as far as under-5 mortality for girls coming in above the expected rate (based on global patterns) is concerned.
The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation in Levels & Trends in Child Mortality Report 2019 shows 6.2 million deaths of children aged 0-14 years occurred in 2018. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for around 2.8 million under-five children deaths (52% of all global deaths), and Central and Southern Asia accounted for another 1.5 million (29%).
Around half of all under-five deaths, the report found, occurred in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. While a higher average mortality rate for boys than for girls is the global trend, in some countries, including India, the under-5 death rate for girls is higher than for boys.
In India, the under-five mortality rate for boys, in 2018, was 36 per 1,000 population while that for girls was 37. According to the Sample Registration System 2017, the infant mortality rate (IMR) for boys and girls was 33 and 36, respectively.
The gap is worse in terms of under-five mortality rate (U-5MR) where, in 2014, the U-5MR was 51 for boys, and 59 for girls. It is crucial that the government of India pay heed to this as the continued burden on women’s health—from childhood to adolescence to motherhood—far exceeds that of men.
India has surely made major improvements with respect to maternal and child care, but it still has a long way to go. It needs to enhance implementation of its maternal and child healthcare policies, especially in states with higher gaps—Jharkhand (gap of 8), Assam (gap of 6), Haryana (gap of 6), Uttar Pradesh (gap of 5), Rajasthan (gap of 4), and Bihar (gap of 4).
While huge strides have been made in reducing child mortality—mortality rate for children under five years of age has declined by 59% since 1990, and mortality amongst children aged 5-14 years declined by 53%—the burden still remains high.
International commitments like the UN Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), too, were framed keeping in mind the global burden of child mortality. Until, countries like India don’t work on female health, the world cannot shed this global burden.