Sanjeev Kumar Patro

Bhubaneswar: An eye-popping revelation! Infant mortality still haunts Odisha acutely. During the last four months of April - July this year, a high of around 25 infant deaths every day were recorded in the State.

According to the consolidated health status report available with the State Health Department, the State has recorded a massive 3,045 infant deaths during the first quarter (April-July) of the financial year 2019-20.

A total of 14 districts bear 67 per cent  of the burden of the total infant mortalities recorded in the State this year till July end. Nabarangpur with 271 infant deaths topped the dubious list in the State. Mayurbhanj followed with 240 deaths. The other 12 districts (in descending order) that have recorded more than 100 infant deaths during the period are: Bolangir, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Ganjam, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Keonjhar, Koraput, Balasore, Kandhmal, Angul and Sundergarh.

A glance shows that the undivided KBK (Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi) together shares nearly half of the infant mortality burden in the State. The other troublesome region is northern Odisha, where districts like Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Balasore and Angul  share a significant infant mortality burden of the State. Among the coastal districts, Ganjam with 160 infant deaths figured among the top-5 high burden districts in the State.

It has been observed that nearly one-third of infant deaths in the State were attributed to afflictions like asphyxia, sepsis, pneumonia and fever; whereas other causes (anaemia, malaria, etc.) take a lion's pie.

When the infant deaths due to other causes stood at 2,154; a total of 871 infant deaths were attributed to diseases like asphyxia, sepsis, pnuemonia and diarrohea. Top sources in the department explained the deaths due to other causes as infants who died due to severe anaemic condition or low birth weight. The severe anaemic condition is either inherited from mother or by malaria.

The top official is of the view that such infant deaths are totally preventable. But the nagging fact is such infant deaths had shown a spike over the years in the State. This puts the glare on how poor nutrition is playing havoc with the life of newborns in the State.

Among the single-most biggest cause behind infant mortality, Asphyxia topped with 487 deaths in the first quarter of 2019-20.

Asphyxia is defined as insufficient oxygen supply to the newborn that results into death. As per WHO, perinatal (during delivery) Asphyxia is the cause behind high still birth rate in Odisha. WHO opined that better health facilities could save the mortalities owing to Asphyxia.

The alarming fact is nearly 61 per cent of infant deaths happened within four weeks of birth, while about 9 per cent died within 24 hours of birth, revealed a top source.

Significantly, the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) released recently, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in Odisha has been estimated at 41. Odisha has been ranked third from the bottom, and almost all the neighbouring States like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh have been ranked far higher than Odisha.

However, an analysis of the IMR trend in the last twelve years (2005-17) reveals that the IMR nationally has recorded a drop by over 36 per cent to touch 33 in 2017 from 58 in 2005, whereas Odisha recorded a 45 per cent drop in the IMR to 41 in 2017 from 75 in 2005.