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'Bengal should focus on neonatal deaths to achieve MDG'

Posted on Feb 27 2014 | IANS

Kolkata, Feb 27 : West Bengal should focus on tackling infants' death within the first month of birth to bring down child mortality rate as a "major chunk" of infants die within 28 days of being born, an expert said Thursday.

The prime focus should be on preventing these deaths to move towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of reducing mortality among children.

The MDGs are eight international development goals established following the Millennium Summit of the UN in 2000. The fourth MDG (reduce child mortality) targets 42 per 1,000 live births by 2015.

"West Bengal is doing far better than the national average of infant mortality rate, but as statistics stand neonatal deaths (death within 28 days of birth) form a major part of child mortality.

The concentration should be on to avoid these deaths which occur due to preventable causes ... this could help us in reaching the MDGs," Jatin Mondar, state programme manager of NGO Save the Children, told IANS.

In 1990, the under-five mortality in India was 114 per 1,000 live births.

The NGO launched the Global Newborn Report here Thursday which states neonatal mortality rate (NMR) has declined by two points in two consecutive years - from 33 to 31 per 1,000 births in 2010-2011 and from 31 to 29 per 1,000 births in 2011-2012.

According to central government statistics, the infant mortality rates for Bengal, stand at 32 deaths per 1000 live births, per year, for 2012., while the neonatal mortality rate is pegged at 22.

Another aspect of this problem, pointed out Mondar, is the absence of specific data for the urban poor.

"We have data for the rural areas but what about the urban poor? There is a lack of disaggregated data on the urban poor. They too can't access quality health service and that contributes to infant mortality," he said.

During the launch of the report, experts proposed a 1000-day approach, a tracking system starting from conception, pregnancy and stretching for two years after birth of the infant.

"We want to take it one step ahead ... the work should begin with the mother because the mother's health affects the infant's," he said.

Since there are many reasons for child mortality under five, including complications during delivery, mother's health and malnutrition, the key is to pinpoint "vulnerable pockets" in the state, he said.

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