Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Particulars of the Unicef’s report and Janani Suraksha Yojana.
Mains level: Some possible solutions suggested in the report, for countering the issue of high neonatal mortality rate.
Report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef): “Every Child Alive”
- The report is on country-wise ranking of neonatal mortality rates
- It ranks India behind poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda
- The ranking shows that financial resources are not the biggest constraint in improving this health indicator; political will is
- According to the report, average newborn mortality in low-income nations is nine times that of high-income ones
Several countries showing a way forward for India
- For example, Sri Lanka and Ukraine, which like India are categorised as lower-middle income economies, had a neonatal mortality of around 5/1000 in 2016
- In comparison, the U.S., a high-income economy, did only slightly better with a rate of 3.7/1000
- India saw the 31st highest newborn-mortality rate, at 25.4 deaths per 1000 in 2016, while Pakistan had the highest
- This means India lost 640,000 babies in 2016, more than any other country
How can we solve this problem?
- The report points out that the most powerful solutions are not necessarily the most expensive
- The 10 critical products that hospitals must stock to save newborns include a piece of cloth to keep a baby warm and close to the mother to encourage breastfeeding
- The list also includes antibiotics and disinfectants, the use of which can stave off killers like sepsis and meningitis
- There are factors outside the healthcare system, like female literacy rates, that make a big difference to healthcare-seeking behaviour
- But changes in education levels will come slowly
- Some other solutions will need greater investment
Biggest cause of death
- The biggest cause of death is premature birth, while the second is complications like asphyxia during delivery
- Preventing these would mean paying attention to the mother’s health during pregnancy and ensuring she delivers in a hospital attended by trained doctors or midwives
- India has programmes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana for this, but must expand its reach in laggard States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh
The way forward
- States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu show that by focussing on these factors, newborn deaths can be brought to fewer than 15 per 1000 in Indian settings
- It’s time for the rest of India to follow suit