Child mortality toll dips below 10 million - UNICEF

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New Delhi, Jan 22 (UNI) India has made substantial progress in bringing down child mortality rates but accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the world's malnutrition and neonatal deaths, a UNICEF report today said.

As many as 9.7 million children below the age of five died from preventable diseases worldwide in 2006, showing a slight decline in the number of childhood deaths, the U N Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

In its report, the State of the World's Children 2008, Unicef notes that over the long term there has been a significant improvement in child survival, with a 60 per cent fall in child mortality rates since 1960.

India registed a decline of 34 per cent in 2006. The under-five years of age mortality for the country was estimated as 76 with average annual rate of reduction between 1990 and 2006 being around 2.6 per cent.

In contrast, 37 per cent of under-five deaths worldwide were due to neonatal causes against 50 per cent in India, making it a matter of concern. While about four million children die within the first 28 days of life elsewhere, in India this number was pegged at 1 million.

An estimated 8.3 million of the 19 million infants in the developing world born with low birth weight were in India, that is around 43 per cent of the world's low birth weight infants. India also had 43 per cent of the underweight children suffering from malnutrition against the world average of 25 per cent children.

Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Meghalaya housed about one-third of the world's underweight children under age five group totalling 55 million.

Pneumonia claimed more lives of children than any other illness worldwide-- more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

India as expected recorded the largest number of pneumonia deaths.

UNI SD SY KP2131

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