India is top in the world for under-five deaths at 1.7 million, which is 24% of the share of total number of such deaths, according to a new UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) report.
Under-5 mortality rate of India was 61 in 2011, where neonatal causes, followed by pneumonia were the highest cause of such deaths. Almost 19,000 under-fives died daily in 2011 in the world.
Religious statesman Rajan Zed, who expressed shock at this report, has asked India to urgently wake up to the child mortality crisis. India should take immediate steps to save the poorest children dying of neglect and failed government policies, which could have been prevented. Something needed to be done urgently as it was a sin to watch the poor children suffer day after day.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that great disparities and divides still persisted in India. India needed to improve access of underserved populations to medical facilities, refocus its health priorities, educate and empower females, improve environment-sanitation-hygiene and have programs for inclusive economic upliftment.
Rajan Zed further said although India was on track to become a global power, but her new prosperity had remained evasive for many. Despite economic miracle, many Indians still lived in desperate poverty. Inequalities in opportunities blocked poor people from participating in the growth process and they remained trapped in vicious cycle of poverty. It was blight on a country, which prided herself on having joined the league of hottest growth economies.
According to an estimate, about one third of world’s poor lived in India. Zed argued that problems like severe malnutrition; spiraling food prices; ineffectual government programs; lack of access to medical facilities, potable water, energy sources, sanitation; illiteracy; etc., needed to be immediately dealt with.
Rajan Zed also appealed to India’s billionaires/millionaires, who had enormously benefitted from India’s economic growth, to pledge some of their wealth to charitable causes aimed at reducing child mortality. Quoting scriptures, Zed said that charity was a duty, which should be undertaken with sympathy and modesty. Religions should also put their share in poverty elimination programs in the communities of India.
Zed stressed that India needed to create a strong political will and become serious in tackling mortality rates among poor children. Government should put poorest and vulnerable children at the center of their policy machines because they had higher needs. It was very shameful that it was 2012 and there was still a huge divide in India between children from rich and poor families and their access to healthcare.
This UNICEF Progress Report 2012, titled “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed”, was dated September 2012. Anthony Lake is the Executive Director of New York (USA) headquartered UNICEF.