Child Health and Nutrition

Child Health and Nutrition

1 in 5 newborn babies who die within four weeks of birth are Indian. Close to half (43%) of the low birth weight infants in the world are born in India.

The Risk To Newborns

The Main Causes of Neonatal Deaths (i.e. in the first 28 days of life) are:

  • Preterm births
  • Severe infection
  • Asphyxia
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Tetanus

Infant mortality refers to the number of babies who do not live to see their first birthday. The main reasons for this are lack of access to health care facilities while pregnant, inadequate care during delivery and neonatal period; maternal factors such as age, parity, and birth intervals and household and community factors (like access to clean water, sanitation and housing).

Not all of these problems are due to low income. A recent World Bank report does show a drop in infant mortality rates with the rise of income per person. But the report notes that the income effect is stronger on reducing fertility rates. Non-income factors like community awareness, good health infrastructure etc. play a more critical role than income in lowering the infant mortality rate. Research highlights that access to a minimum package of essential services including reproductive health services, perinatal care, improved breastfeeding practices, immunization, home-based treatment of diarrhea, and timely introduction of supplementary foods can significantly reduce neonatal and infant mortality rates.

The Risk to Children Under Five

A child under the age of five dies every 15 seconds in India, i.e. 2.1 million kids in India die each year before their fifth birthday. More than half (about 55%) of the world’s underweight children under five are Indians.

Major Causes of Under-five Deaths Are:

  • Pneumonia
  • Diarrhoea
  • Malaria
  • Measles

Malnutrition is a contributing cause to more than one-third of the 9.2 million under-five deaths globally, but in India, it accounts for as high as 50% of the under-five mortality. 7.5% children under age 5 develop severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in urban India. SAM reduces chances of survival [mortality rate: 73-187 per 100], hinders optimal physical growth and is associated with suboptimal brain development leading to long lasting negative impact on cognitive ability, school performance and future earnings. Lack of access to crucial lifesaving information for caregivers during acute inpatient treatment and later during rehabilitation at home leads to relapse.

Complications that arise during a pregnancy do not only affect a mother’s life. In developing countries, it is estimated that the risk of death for a child under age 5 can increase up to 50% if the mother dies.