Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), one of the most successful schemes of Modi government has helped the country in reducing infant mortality rate in the country. According to a report by United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UNIGME), about 8, 02,000 infant (under 5 years of age) deaths were noted in Indian in the year of 2017. This is the lowest reported number of infant deaths in the last five years. In 2016, 8.67 lakh infants died in the country. Diarrheal deaths which accounts for more than 8 percent of the total deaths witnessed substantial reduction in last few years due to Modi government’s SBM. Poor sanitation and unavailability of safe drinking water is the reason behind 88 percent of childhood diarrhea.
The diarrhea among children leads to chronic malnutrition, lowered immunity and frequent and potentially fatal infections, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Modi government introduced six new vaccines including pneumococcal vaccine against pneumonia and rotavirus vaccine against childhood diarrhea. The number of death decreased sharply from 43 in 2015 to 39 in 2016 per 1000 births due to Swachh Bharat Mission’s insistence on food safety, making country open defecation free (ODF) by 2019, and promotion of hygienic activities.
A survey in 10 districts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal found that children in ODF districts are less likely to suffer from diarrhea in comparison to non-ODF districts. Diarrhea affection rate in non-ODF districts was 13.9 percent in comparison to 9.3 percent in ODF districts. 459 of the country’s 718 districts have been declared ODF as Modi government built more toilets in rural India under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).
Open defecation is major cause of food and water pollution in the country. Mothers in ODF districts have relatively higher bodyweight in comparison to non-ODF districts. The children at households which have piped water connection are less likely to suffer from diarrhea. “Poor transport and handling of water at the household level, open drains and wastewater in the streets, uncovered garbage, improper stool disposal by mothers, not using soap to wash hands before feeding children also raises the risk of infection,” said Dr Dileep Mavlankar, director, Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH), Gandhinagar.
The inadequate sanitation cost around 6.4 percent to the country’s GDP. “A sick and malnourished child is like a pot with holes, you can never fill it to its full potential. A child cannot reach his or her physical and mental milestones unless they are healthy in the formative years of life,” added Dr Mavlankar.
The infant mortality rate is among the most important indicators of healthcare conditions in the country. Human Development Index (HDI) uses infant mortality rate as a parameter to calculate the availability of health care to common people. Reducing infant mortality rate was on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as well as part of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Universal healthcare program is very necessary for better health conditions among citizens of any country. Modi government plans to universalize healthcare through Ayushman Bharat program.
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