POST TIME: 7 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Falling infant mortality: Keep up the trend

Falling infant mortality: Keep up the trend

It was revealed at an event of the National Newborn Health Programme, that infant mortality has come down to 30 per 1000 and, by 2022 will fall even further to 18. This is indeed heartening news because even in 2006, the mortality rate per thousand babies was 48. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) sets a target of 12 deaths per 1000 by 2030 and, with the current number, Bangladesh seems to be well on the way to achieving the goal on time, maybe before.

The government has already appointed ten thousand nurses, twelve hundred midwives and seven thousand doctors to ensure that infant mortality is brought down. The initiative deserves kudos with uplifting results. However, the constant focus of the newborn health programme has to be on rural areas, where traditional methods often put the lives of mothers and infants in danger. Also, post-partum care related knowledge is vital, because many of the unseen symptoms are not understood in the villages, which may not result in deaths but trigger long-term psychological problems for mothers.

Infant health is intricately related to the health of the mother and one cannot be achieved without the other. Since using midwives is a prevalent practice in rural Bangladesh, women in this profession have to be given latest training on hygiene, health and maternal psychology.

Providing medical support is the most visible facet of the mother-child health issue though there is a very profound aspect related to the complex psychological phases experienced by would-be mothers before and after birth.

Several development organisations are working on this issue though the government can also ramp up its campaigns through fundamental sensitisation at colleges and high schools. Reportedly, there is a plan to start Special Care Newborn Unit, SCANU, aimed at providing exclusive attention to infants. These can be set up at the upzilas and publicized through upazila health centres. One other method may be to use high school and college students to go around from home to home to talk about women’s health.

While the government is stressing to reduce maternal and child mortality, initiatives to disseminate proper knowledge on the changes of the human body plus human biological needs have to be brought out from years of taboo and discussed frankly.

Sex education is a must, which can also be intertwined with hot button topics like sexual harassment, eve teasing, gender-based abuse and other forms of exploitation. Ensuring infant health is but one face of a multifaceted issue; for overall success, there’s no alternative to a comprehensive approach.