Higher Infant mortality rate: Still a challenge for the world!

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IMR – A wake up call for all the world’s health authorities

Infant mortality is defined as the number of deaths per 1000 births of infants under the age of 1 that means death of infants before reaching even their 1st birthday! The leading causes so far are identified as malnutrition, prolonged labor, pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, term birth complications, sanitation, inadequate medical resources etc.

Contributors to Infant Mortality

According to some recent reports, the major contributors to infant mortality also include smoking during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman smokes constantly, it directly affects infant’s health.

Environmental conditions, medical treatment and substructure also impact IMR worldwide. In rural and remote areas of Pakistan, women still don’t have the access to the awareness on sanitation and cleaning which is a major cause of infant mortality. They don’t have the access to clean drinking water and public health facilities due to which such areas have higher rates of infant mortality than those areas where all these basic facilities are easily reachable.

Role of United Nations in the reduction of IMR

Earlier United Nations in order to keep track of the progress of this concerned issue, had enlisted it as Goal#4 in its Millennium Development Goals following the year 2015. Besides this the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 have also addressed the issue as an effort to reduce IMR and so it’s now a target for Goal#3 of the SDGs which is:

Goal#3: ‘Ensuring Good health & promoting comfort for all’.

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

In a conference, Newborn Program Chief and Global Maternity for UNICEF, Willibald Zeck said that although health care improvements and developments are expensive and sometimes challenging for authorities but if we invest our resources in smart way, it can really work.

Infant Mortality Rate is fluctuating drastically throughout the world. According to a research by Health sciences and Biotechnology, among the 7 continents of the world, Africa has the highest rate of infant morality as compared to other the regions of the world. There’s no doubt that the world has witnessed a decline in the number of deaths after the developments in medical technology, but still poor countries are lagging far behind in technological revolution due to scare resources and low incomes in LDCs, citizens neglect such issues.

Post neonatal form of infant mortality is however known be the most prevalent form which is essentially the death of infants under 29 days of birth to one year and causes are common malnutrition, eposed to infectious diseases and often troubled pregnancy. Out of 100, 86 percent of infant deaths are caused by delivery time complications, premature births and infections. Countries where there are low rates of mortality, are successful in attaining a decline in the percentage reduction of IMR. Developing countries can also achieve this reduction rate only if they really want to address the issue so! All the above-mentioned common roots of higher infant mortality rate can be prevented with the help of low-cost measures.

infant mortality

Environmental causes

Countries with greatest number of IMR indicates that they have socioeconomic disparities and their nation’s health is at stake so we can say that IMR can be a measure of the social factors and indicates the level of socioeconomic inequalities within a state. Water pollution is a major contributor to increased IMR among environmental causes. Contaminated water contains various microbial and parasitic infections. Countries having low socioeconomic rankings in most cases are more prone to poor sanitary conditions. Then comes long and short-term effects caused by air pollution also.

Socio economic factors

There exists a relationship between low incomes and higher rates of infant mortality. Least developed states where economic conditions are worse, have less to no medical services available for mothers and infants. On one hand where progress in medical technology has benefited people across the world, it has also limited the access to medical services for those who’re living in poverty and cannot afford even basic amenities due to high cost of cure.

Culture

It’s no more surprising for us that culture as well is interlinked with IMR. It’s clear that there are many communities where people stick to rigid norms set by their ancestors and breeding such cultural norms of favoring male births over females. One might be surprised to know in some of the developing countries like Brazil, IMR is not even reported means most of the times deaths are not even registered! Processes for death certificates are often not documented because poor families having low incomes find the process of registration costly.


It’s not like that developed countries don’t have impoverished areas where IMR is higher. A sound example is of United States, its two regions Appalachia and Delta were recorded to be the two extremely poor regions of the United States where infants’ lives were at risk in 2017 and the causes highlighted the negative impacts of poverty and other social and medical factors on the health status of the mothers of these two regions and their infants.

According to different surveys and reports, there’re about 10 countries in the world with highest rates of infant mortality and of those 10 countries 8 are present in Sub Saharan Africa with major reasons being scarce resources and poor economic conditions along with limited to no reach to public health. These countries are:

It’s no more surprising for us that culture as well is interlinked with IMR. It’s clear that there are many communities where people stick to rigid norms set by their ancestors and breeding such cultural norms of favoring male births over females. One might be surprised to know in some of the developing countries like Brazil, IMR is not even reported means most of the times deaths are not even registered! Processes for death certificates are often not documented because poor families having low incomes find the process of registration costly.
It’s not like that developed countries don’t have impoverished areas where IMR is higher. A sound example is of United States, its two regions Appalachia and Delta were recorded to be the two extremely poor regions of the United States where infants’ lives were at risk in 2017 and the causes highlighted the negative impacts of poverty and other social and medical factors on the health status of the mothers of these two regions and their infants.
According to different surveys and reports, there’re about 10 countries in the world with highest rates of infant mortality and of those 10 countries 8 are present in Sub Saharan Africa with major reasons being scarce resources and poor economic conditions along with limited to no reach to public health. These countries are:

  • Mali
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • South Sudan
  • Somalia
  • Chad
  • Lesotho
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Niger

Infant Mortality Rate and Pakistan

When it comes to Pakistan unfortunately little importance is granted to public health care and provision of safe delivery practices especially in remote areas. Situation of Pakistan is although much better as compared to the other developing countries with high IMR but still IMR in Pakistan is appalling. In Pakistan for some years we have read such news about women giving births to babies in the vehicles due to route and traffic jams for ‘VERY IMPORTANT PERSONS’ (VIPs). For these VIPs it is just a moment of time that they come and pass but all vehicles are being stopped for much longer and this is a tragedy that in case if a pregnant women is in a vehicle who’s in just few moments going to give birth to a new life, her carried vehicle is being stopped for just a VIP movement and that VIP probably has no idea what’s going around people live, die or are troubled because of that traffic jam who cares? 3 years ago, we also came across a case where a lady in Mardan was denied to be admitted in hospital for reason being packed ward of Gynae, and she gave birth to a baby girl outside the hospital and resultantly her baby died of cold. Who’s responsible for that baby’s death? And thousands of such babies who die annually because of poor infrastructure at our hospitals.

About a recent case at the end of September 2019, where a woman in a government hospital in Shikarpur was forced to give birth to child on the hospital’s floor outside the corridor. What a tyranny! All these incidents show the negligence of the hospital authorities that means causes to sudden deaths of infants are not always natural but sometimes it’s the inattentiveness of the authorities too!

infant mortality

Prevention

Common causes related to environment, social factors or medical services can be combated by advancing social institutions and governments which need to provide basic public health facilities (both maternal and infant), as well as governments need to address the following issue by fulfilling needs of education and creating awareness among the masses. Improvements in sanitation and avoidance of tobacco, drugs or alcohol, can help to improve a woman’s health status during pregnancy. By scaling up the capacity for human resources, governments can effortlessly reduce higher rates of infant mortality. We can prevent ‘80 percent’ of infant’s deaths by giving our people access to clean water, disinfectants, training and awareness among masses about breastfeeding etc. last but not least authorities need to guarantee not only QUALITY but ensuring ‘AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE’ for all.

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