By Manali Joshi
At the Sustainable Development Summit on 25 September 2015, UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.
Millions of people were involved in crafting this global agenda, including governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, the UN system with concerned individuals, including children and youth. The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals which kept the world united and going towards eradicating the indignity of poverty, as its main agenda; a 15-year agenda which ended in September 2000. The new SDGs, with an added broader sustainability agenda, go much further than the MDGs, addressing the root causes of poverty and the universal need for development that works for all people. All 17 SDGs are connected to sustainable development, democratic governance, peacebuilding, and climate and disaster resilience. Goals Number 1 on poverty, Number 10 on inequality and Number 16 on governance are particularly central. UNICEF is committed to supporting the successful implementation of the SDGs by working with a diverse group of partners to see that the goals deliver results for every child for the generations to come. Thus, all the stakeholders including government, public healthcare facilitators, NGOs, will be working towards attaining the goal by 2030.
The recent report findings
UNICEF published its first-ever report on the newborn mortality rate, on Tuesday, 20th February 2018. The report on newborn mortality rate ranked the countries according to the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. India was ranked 12th amongst 52 lower middle-income nations. Japan topped the list, followed by Iceland, Singapore, Finland and Estonia. The Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Somalia and Lesotho followed by Pakistan were among the worst five countries on the list. However, the report identified one positive aspect wherein, India has successfully halved the number of deaths among children under the age of five in the last quarter century. The under-five mortality rate has been reduced by 66% between 1990 and 2015. This rate of decline has helped India to be in the run of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals target for under-five mortality of 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.
A situation which needs to improve
According to the report, every year 26 lakh babies die worldwide within 28 days of birth, which is an average of 7,000 deaths every day. Of these, 6.4 lakh neonatal deaths occur in India. The neonatal mortality rate at 25.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in India makes it 12th worst among the 52 lower-middle-income countries. The report also said that India is the only major country in the world to have a higher mortality for girls than boys.
Focusing on the country shows significant disparities amongst states. While Kerala and Goa have neonatal mortality rates of ten per 1,000 live births, the figure for Bihar and Uttarakhand stands at 44 per 1,000. Additionally, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan who account for 46 percent of all births, has 57 percent of India’s neonatal deaths. This clearly shows that while some parts are really coping up well with literacy and family planning, others need significant attention from their state government on reforms. Therefore, the SDG report clearly states that India is quite far from meeting the commitment to lowering the neonatal mortality rates to 12 for every 1000. Even to cut the current rate in half in the next 12 years, requires a higher amount of government attention and citizen involvement. The report pointed out that the rates would come down if measures were taken to improve the healthcare system by adopting solutions like clean water, disinfectants, a creation of awareness about breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition.
India’s headway in improving under-five mortality
The major reason of having such high mortality rate is due to lack of availability and accessibility to proper healthcare, well-trained health workers, clean water, proper nutrition and education about the dos and don’ts of childcare. There is also a desperate need to create awareness about sex selection, where the girl child is unwanted. By making lifesaving supports available, these deaths can be prevented.
This month, UNICEF is launching a global campaign called “Every Child ALIVE,” to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns. This campaign hopes to be helpful as a guide and a yardstick for the governments, health care providers, donors, the private sector, families and businesses of different nations to keep every child born alive by adopting the following measures. Firstly, recruiting and training sufficient doctors and nurses with expertise in maternal and newborn care. Secondly, guaranteeing clean, functional health facilities equipped with water, soap and electricity, within the reach of every mother and baby, a major area of concern for India. Thirdly, making it a priority to provide every mother and baby with the life-saving drugs and equipment needed for a healthy start in life; and lastly empowering adolescent girls, mothers and families to demand and receive quality health care. Thus, if all these improvements are made along with the formulation of necessary schemes, the situation can be changed. With a few small steps necessary for adequate healthcare, every mother and newborn can be saved.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt