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The Hindu
The Hindu
Afshan Yasmeen

Karnataka’s infant mortality rate falls by two points in 2020

In a pointer to improved health indicators, Karnataka’s Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) fell by two points from 21 in 2019 to 19 in 2020, according to the Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin for 2020 released on Thursday.

IMR is defined as the infant deaths (less than one year) per thousand live births in a given time period and for a given region. The SRS taken up by the Office of the Registrar General of India is a large-scale demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate, and other fertility and mortality indicators at the national and regional level.

However, a matter of concern is that rural areas continue to report a higher number of infant deaths compared to urban areas. Also, the death rate is high in female babies. While 21 infant deaths per thousand live births are reported in rural areas in the State in 2020, the rate is 16 in urban areas.

16 point fall in last decade

Karnataka’s IMR has seen a reduction of 16 points in the last decade. From as high as 35 in 2011, the State successfully brought down the IMR to 24 in 2016. Although this vital parameter again went up by one point and touched 25 in 2017, it has fallen by two points every year since then touching 19 in 2020.

Karnataka’s IMR is far better than the national average that stood at 28  infant deaths per thousand live births in 2020. However, this is less than one-fourth as compared to 1971 (when 129 infant deaths were reported per thousand live births) in the country.

In the last ten years, IMR in India has witnessed a decline of about 36% from 44 to 28. The corresponding decline in rural areas is 48 to 31, and for urban areas it is from 29 to 19, thereby exhibiting about 35% and 34% decline respectively at the national level. Despite the decline in IMR over the last decades, one in every 36 infants die within the first year of their life at the national level (irrespective of rural or urban areas), stated the SRS bulletin. 

Big achievement

State Health Commissioner Randeep D. said a two-point reduction in IMR is a big achievement for Karnataka. “As we head towards single digit IMR, the task becomes more challenging in closing the gap,” he said. 

Pointing out that the SRS report has not attributed any reasons for the high number of deaths in rural areas, the Commissioner said the deaths include both preventable and non-preventable. “The ultimate objective is to reach single digit IMR and halting all preventable infant deaths. We are reviewing and reporting infant deaths at district level under chairmanship of Deputy Commissioners so as to find reasons and build appropriate district specific strategies to prevent them,” he said, adding that the role of Special Newborn Care Units (SNCUs) is extremely important in this regard.

Basavaraj B. Dhabadi, State Deputy Director (Child Health) said IMR is an important marker of the overall health of a society. “Overall, the State has recorded a six-point decrease in the last four years. This  is a reflection of the major strides Karnataka has made in the health sector. However, a further decrease is more challenging and we are working towards that,” he added.

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