Data released by the Maharashtra government reveals the neonatal mortality rate dropping to 5.56 percent in June 2019 from a high of 13.23 percent in 2013-14, according to Indian daily The Indian Express.
In 2013-14, over 40,000 new-borns were admitted to Special Newborn Care Units (SNCUs) in Maharashtra hospitals, of which about 5,300 infants died. By June 2019, this figure had declined to about 15,600 admitted cases, with 871 deaths.
Talking of the steps being undertaken by the state, The Indian Express quoted Dr Archana Patil, a senior Maharashtra Heath Department officer, as saying that hygiene measures are monitored very strictly to ensure reduced infant mortality.
She said that some of the infection-preventive measures put in place include regular mentoring visits by government-appointed paediatricians and collection of death audits in each state-run SNCU every week.
Colour coding of bedsheets is another infection preventive step that state-run hospitals follow. This ensures that each bed in the new-born care unit of a hospital has a washed and sterilised bedsheet.
Dr Dinesh Thakur, Nasik civil hospital’s SNCU head, told the daily that about 250-300 new-borns are admitted on a monthly basis, but the mortality rate is less than eight percent.
The Maharashtra government’s health department follows the World Health Assembly’s Every Newborn Action Plan guidelines of 2014 on reducing neonatal mortality. The Every Newborn Action Plan presents evidence-based solutions to prevent new-born deaths and stillbirths. It sets out a clear path to 2020 with specific global and national milestones. In 2014, 194 member states of the 67th World Health Assembly endorsed the action plan.
UNICEF, in its first-ever report on new-born mortality rates, published in February 2018, ranked countries according to the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. India was ranked 12th among 52 lower middle-income nations, while Japan topped the list.
A positive aspect highlighted in the report was India’s success in halving the number of deaths of children under the age of five between 1983 and 2018.