BHUBANESWAR: Notwithstanding the consistent decline in the Infant Mortality Rate in the State, the State would have to wait till 2012 to see the IMR of the country’s 2009 figure. The grim fact has been revealed by the results of the latest Sample Registration Survey (SRS)-2009.
The latest SRS estimates the IMR in Orissa in 2009 at 65 per 1,000 live births against 69 a year ago. The average IMR nationally is only 50. Though the State has witnessed a 4-point decline, Orissa still tied at the 34th rank, of a total of 35 states and Union territories. The State thus has the second-highest infant mortality rate in the country. This is due to marginal decline during the period of 2005-08, when the rate dropped gradually by just 2 points per annum. Even at the current improved rate of decline, the State would have to wait for three more years to reach the IMR of 50. And another decade from now to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of below 30.
The rate of decline has been attributed to the operationalistion of SCNUs (special care newborn units) last year. Along with SCNUs, increased coverage of the complementary feeding programmes through ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme)to treat the cases of anaemia and malnutrition have also helped in a good measure.
This shows that a good progress in the said initiatives can trigger the momentum significantly and could bring down the IMR at par with the national average by as early as 2011. However, a fast paced progress requires a better infrastructure for the effective operationalisation of the initiatives for a faster outcome. But the track record of the State doesn’t indicate so.
The State is severely hamstrung by the acute staff shortage. The NRHM report on the State disclosed that it is managing with a 30 per cent vacancies at the paediatrician positions in the hospitals where the IMR is quite acute. “The current contribution to the high IMR has been from the tribal areas and the interior rural pockets of the State, where accessibility to the health services remain very critical,” said an NRHM official.
Diarrhoea is still the prime factor behind the high IMR in the State. And ensuring zero tolerance to the water-borne diseases needs an intervention from departments other than the Health. Even, the Health Minister is for an integrated approach. He said, “A high-powered task force comprising officials from the Health, Sanitation, Women and Child Department and School and Mass Education Department could be formed to monitor the entire gamut of the factors concerning the IMR in each district and accordingly frame appropriate integrated interventions to bring a definitive and swift improvement in the IMR.”