Govt to intensify bid to control infant mortality

Kathmandu, January 27:

The government is planning to expand the Integrated Management on Childhood Illness (IMCI) programme to 12 more districts with special target to cater to the needs of 0-7 days old neonates.

The programme will begin from April this year and is expected to check the high neonatal mortality rate.

Dr Sun Lal Thapa, programme manager of Integrated Management on Childhood Illness (IMCI), Child Health Division (CHD), told this daily that Nepal is very close to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing under-five child mortality rate by two third by 2015, but neonatal mortality is still a bigger challenge.

The government is expanding the IMCI programme in Baitadi, Achham, Jajarkot, Rukum, Pyuthan, Gulmi, Syanghja, Chitwan, Dadhing, Parsa, Siraha and Panchthar.

According to CHD, two-thirds of all infant deaths take place in the first year of life of which two-third occurs in the first week of life and of which two-third occurs on first day of birth.

“Earlier, the IMCI did not concentrate on neonates as it required paediatricians, sophisticated management, and care for the neonates but now we have realised that it was a mistake,” said Dr Thapa. “Research shows that even simple precautionary measures could save babies’ lives.”

IMCI generally concentrates on under-five children to deal with five killer diseases namely diarrhoea, pnuemonia, malnutrition, measles and malaria.

Mostly, neonates suffer from asphyxia, hypothermia and little training to the mothers could save child’s lives, informed Dr Thapa. The neonatal component in IMCI programme was already introduced in 10 districts of Terai Region since 2004 after the government endorsed National Neonatal Health Strategy in 2004.

According to the preliminary Demographic Health Survey 2006 report, the neonatal mortality is still higher with 39/1000 live births from its 34/1000 live births in 2001.

Infant mortality rate is 48 per 1000 live births while it was 64/1000 live births in 2001.

Of the total infant mortality, 60 per cent death occurs in the first one month of birth.

Arjun Bahadur Singh, spokesperson at Health Ministry, said that the government is very serious about bringing down the neonatal mortality rate. “Government is considering to include neonatal programmes in various comprehensive programmes of family health,” said Singh.

The under five-child mortality rate was 91 per 1000 live births in 2001 while it has come down to 65/ 1000 live births.