“We are failing the world’s poorest babies,” according to UNICEF . And the poor babies in India are getting the worst of it. The neonatal (newborn) mortality rate in our country officially ranks us as the 12th worst one in the world to be born in.
While India struggles to meet even the basic requirements of an adult population bursting at its seams, over 6.4 lakh babies in India die within 28 days of birth, every year. It comes as a tiny respite that the mortality rate for Indian children under 5 has dropped below 1 million for the first time in 2016.
The truly heartbreaking fact about these statistics is that more than 80% of these neonatal deaths could be prevented with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition.
The mMitra programme is an innovative step in the right direction. mMitra is a free voice calling service for India’s urban slums. It focusses on reducing maternal, neonatal, and child mortality among the impoverished communities, by providing culturally appropriate, comprehensive information, timely prompts for doctor visits, and even nutritional tips and post-birth care. The service has been a godsend for the mostly illiterate women living in slums like Dharavi, and deserves our full support.