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BHOPAL: Infant deaths reported in Shahdol district may have created shockwaves in Madhya Pradesh, but, in reality, tribal districts, such as Mandla and Balaghat, have a higher rate of infant deaths. In Mandla and Balaghat, the infant death rate is 15%, while, in Shahdol, the figure is 13%.

However, in general, MP has a 12%-13% infant death rate. In most places, it is 11%-13%, while a few places have a 10% infant death rate. The infant mortality rate in Madhya Pradesh is 48 per 1,000. The current infant mortality rate for India (2020) is 29.848 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 3.48% decline from that in 2019. The infant mortality rate for India in 2019 was 30.924 deaths per 1,000 live births, a 3.36% decline from that in 2018.

Mandla’s SNCU in-charge , Dr Rotela, said, “ Mandla has a 15% death rate in the district and most of it is due to being underweight. Their lungs do not develop, so they suffer from acute respiratory problems. So, the death rate is higher in our district. Hundred and ten infants were admitted to the SNCU in November, while 50 infants have been admitted in December; so far, four deaths have been reported.”

Similarly, Balaghat’s SNCU in-charge, Dr Ashutosh, said, “We have over a 15% death rate in the district. In November, 270 infants were admitted and 28 infants died. We need more infrastructure at the SNCU. Some parents also take away their infants to other hospitals.”

Shahdol’s ex-CMHO, Rajesh Pandey, said, “There is a 13% death rate in Shahdol. In November, 198 infants were admitted to the SNCU. The infants are brought from the surrounding districts, so the number of infant deaths swells.”

Health minister Dr Prabhuram Chaudhary, talking to Free Press, expressed his views on checking infant deaths, especially in tribal districts of MP. Excerpts:

Q--What is the overall strategy to check infant deaths in Madhya Pradesh?

Ans—We are conducting a survey in the state covering the infants’ condition and local reasons. Whether tribal districts or any other district, the survey will help us know the reality and reasons behind the deaths.

Q--Mandla, Balaghat have a 15% death rate and most of the tribal districts have death rates at par with Shahdol’s infant deaths. The SNCU in-charge complains about the shortage of hands in most tribal districts…

Ans—We are strengthening the infrastructure and manpower wherever there is a need to redress such complaints.

Q--You removed the CMHO and civil surgeon in Shahdol when the infant death rate is 13 per cent, but, in the other tribal districts, the condition is more pathetic. So, what is your strategy to check infant deaths?

Ans—We have removed the CMHO and civil surgeon in Shahdol over infant deaths, but removal of any official does not serve the purpose.

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