Infant and Neonatal Mortality rate: A cause of concern
Author: Diksha Paliwal
IV Year | Indore Institute of Law, Indore
The mortality rate is a cause of concern as it reflects upon the economic and medical condition of a country. The obstacle of Infant Mortality Rate and Neonatal Mortality Rate, i.e., deaths per 1000 live births under one year of age or less than four weeks , is a part of the Indian society.
While the child mortality rate has declined over the last few decades, it is evident from the recent statistics that progress has been erratic. There has been an increase in mortality rates in the contemporary year. In a survey, it was found that around 0.75 neonates die every year in India. It is the highest rate compared to any country in the world. The child mortality rate has come down to 28 per 1000 live births in 2013 from 52 per 1000 live births in 1990, but this rate of appreciable progress has slowed down in recent years.
A large number of factors have resulted in stagnated and perpetuated infant mortality rates. One of the major factors accountable for this unperceptive, slower process is the insufficiency of access to maternal and child healthcare treatments among the poor. The child mortality rate is a gauge of the alarming health status of not only the infants but of the entire population, many of whom are the victims of poverty.
Factors responsible for the Infant Mortality rate (IMR) and Neonatal Mortality rate (NMR):
Various researchers have identified several socio-economic factors like lack of education, financial disparities, and improper access to healthcare services as factors for child mortality rate. Some studies suggest the intersection between fertility, mortality, and gender bias as one of the factors, while others adamantly support the idea of a demographic divide behind the increased mortality rates.
The rural belief systems, orthodox practices, myths, and taboos also play a key role in the increasing infant mortality rate. This peculiar blend of myths and magic has completely blindfolded the rural people’s choices. It has directly or indirectly affected the behavioural and health choices of people.
Economic factors too influence the mortality rates in a big way. To begin with, the first thing that a newborn needs is proper care which is determined by the parent’s ability to provide it. If the parents are caught in the clutches of poverty, it will be difficult for them to provide proper care for their children. Studies have revealed that the chances of an infant’s survival lie in the quality of the care provided. The prevailing standard of living, poor household conditions, and the deteriorating lifestyle of people due to weak or poor financial conditions are all factors adversely affecting the mortality rates.
There are other medical factors as well that play a significant role such as antenatal and post-natal care. The mental health of the mother, hygiene, sanitation factors etc. are other crucial factors to consider.
A step toward eliminating disparities in Mortality Rate:
India, with one of the largest populations, has many direct-indirect factors that lead to a high infant mortality rate. Our country is simultaneously living in different centuries leading to increasing inequalities among the different strata of society. It is not only a lack of medical infrastructure but also ingrained taboos among the rural and urban populations, which act as a catalyst for a high mortality rate. There is a need to create awareness and educate the lower strata about antenatal and post-natal care.
Proper childcare is a building block toward saving infants from mortality. Thus, it’s important to have proper childcare, especially in the early years.
Other Factors affecting Infant Mortality Rate and Neonatal Mortality Rate:
The birth interval between two children plays a vital role in addressing the issue of infant mortality. Frequent deliveries by the mother may cause illness and deficiency in her which in turn affects the infant’s health. An adequate gap between two deliveries is important not only for the mother’s survival but for the child’s survival too.
The cases of female foeticides have seen a dip in past years. However, society is still not free of this horrendous practice. Thus, there is a need to keep a tab on these killings, as they too add to the mortality rate.
Another crucial factor in curtailing the mortality rate is sanitation and hygiene. A child’s survival is also dependent upon a proper hygienic environment with adequate sanitation facilities. There is a need to sensitize people with care and urgency towards these factors to curtail the mortality rate.
Self-help groups to help curtail Infant Mortality Rate and Neonatal Mortality Rate:
To increase awareness about this alarming condition self-help groups can prove to be of immense help. Women can form self-help groups so that in adverse situations, even if they don’t get help from their family members, they will have someone to rely on for proper help, care, and support. These groups will not only act as benefactors for expecting mothers in tough times, but can also help them emotionally.
With a combined effort of ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) workers and a steady evolving healthcare system, we can make our country a safer place for infants and their mothers. For a change to happen, society needs to work towards educating itself and making others aware of pre-and post-pregnancy care.
It is not only the government but we as a society that needs to take a stern step toward bringing a reform. We have a long way to go to annihilate the problem of NMR and IMR. Serious attention must be paid to all the factors leading to the high child mortality rates. Additionally, we need effective ways to implement policies to cope with the increasing disparity.
Though the country has witnessed significant improvements in mortality rates since the 1990s, we still have a long way to go. Raising the question – if enough is being done? If the government is doing enough to solve the issue? The answer is, No. After the launch of the National Rural Health Mission, one can see a shift in the paradigm. However, there is a need to maintain coordination between policies made, their implementation and ground reality.
 The socio-economic determinants behind Infant Mortality and Maternal Mortality, THE INDIAN TRUST FOR INNOVATION AND SOCIAL CHANGE (Sept. 9th, 2021), https://ideas.repec.org/p/ess/wpaper/id2283.html
 State of newborn health in India, JOURNAL OF PERINATOLOGY (Sept 9th, 2021), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5144119/.
Editor: Anukriti Prakash