New Delhi, March 31, 2012: First the good news - nearly 1.41 lakh fewer children died in India in 2010 before reaching their fifth birthday than in 2009. This means nearly 388 fewer children aged 0-4 years died per day.
Before you start celebrating, consider this -- 15.41 lakh children died in India in 2010 under the age of five. What's worse, more females died than their male counterparts. While India in 2010 saw over 7.43 lakh male children aged 0-4 years die, the number for female children stood at 8.06 lakh.
India's latest Sample Registration System data finalized and signed by the Registrar General of India late on Friday evening, saw under five mortality fall by nearly five points in 2010 - from 64 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2009 to 59 deaths in 2010. This means that in total, India in 2010 saw 15.41 lakh under-five deaths compared to 16.83 lakh in 2009.
India, however, still has a higher under-five mortality rate than poorer neighbours like Nepal and Bangladesh and much higher than in Sri Lanka, according to the World Health Organisation's 'World Health Statistics 2011'. The WHO puts Nepal's under-five mortality at 48 per 1,000 live births in 2009, Bangladesh's at 52 and Sri Lanka's at 16.
Among Indian states, Assam recorded the highest overall under-five mortality rate - 83 deaths per 1,000 live births followed by Madhya Pradesh (82), Uttar Pradesh (79), Odisha (78), Rajasthan (69), Bihar (64) and Chhattisgarh (61).
At the other end of the spectrum, Kerala recorded the lowest overall under-five mortality rate of 15 followed by Tamil Nadu (27), Maharashtra (33), Delhi (34), Punjab (43) and Karnataka (45).
In absolute numbers, Uttar Pradesh not surprisingly accounted for 28.7% of the total deaths, Bihar 11%, Madhya Pradesh 10.3%, Rajasthan 8% and Andhra Pradesh 4.7%.
States with the lowest absolute number of under-five deaths - Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Punjab together accounted for just 3.5% of the country's overall under-five deaths.
According to the data, while the death rate of male children before they reached five years of age stood at 55 deaths per 1,000 male children born in 2010, it was almost nine points higher when it came to female children - 64 deaths per 1,000 females born. (Source: SRS Bulletin)
Also, the child mortality rate was much higher in rural India than in urban. While 61 male children died per 1,000 male births in rural India, the corresponding figure for females stood at 71 deaths.
The corresponding numbers for urban India were 36 for male children died and 40 for female children.
Deaths of female children before their fifth birthday was highest in Assam and UP - 87 female deaths per 1,000 females born followed by Madhya Pradesh (85), Punjab and Odisha (79), Chhattisgarh (70), Bihar (68), Jharkhand (66) and Gujarat (60).
Deaths of female children was lowest in Kerala (16), Tamil Nadu (28), Delhi and Maharashtra (35), Karnataka (47) and Punjab (48).
While Kerala is state with the lowest rates, it is also the only one to have seen an increase in under-five mortality though only by less than 0.5. An official told TOI, "For two consecutive years, India has recorded a five-point decline in under-five mortality rate. However more females are dying even now before they reach their fifth birthday."