Neonatal Deaths on the Rise

Neonatal deaths continue to haunt developing India.

Arpita De
Newborn CareWritten by: Arpita DePublished at: Jul 25, 2011
Neonatal Deaths on the Rise

Newborn babyFact file: 45 % infants die within the first seven days of their birth in India.

 According to a report released by UNICEF, India alone accounts for 2.1 million annual neonatal deaths out of the grand total of 3.1 million neonatal deaths in South Asia. Doesn’t that say a lot about medical benefits and the state of medical care in our ever developing economy?

Neonatal death is defined as the death of a newborn infant within the first 28 days post delivery. And in India the lack of proper infrastructure, medical staff that is well-equipped to handle all matters related to the birth of an infant and finally, gross negligence on the part of society are propelling the rate at which young lives are being lost daily. In fact, cities such as Kolkata, Ahmadabad and even the nation’s capital, New Delhi have reported neonatal deaths.


Doctors and experts are of the opinion that neonatal deaths have a state-wise spread because some states have taken active steps in curbing the death of infants through advanced and adequate healthcare facilities, both to the pregnant woman and the newborn baby. In states such as Kerala for example, the number of infant deaths is considerably low. However, when it comes to states such as Bihar and Odisha, the number of deaths and the paucity of medical care are truly shocking. Even the best hospitals in Bihar are ill-equipped to handle critical cases of delivery and despite promises of care and medical aid in government hospitals, the condition remains grim. More appalling is the fact that nurses and doctors have the least regard for human life and lack the requisite passion for their job. Labour, delivery and childcare are merely means of earning money.

Another problem that plagues neonatal health is the fact that in rural India babies are still born at home. Centuries’ old techniques such as putting mustard oil in a newborn baby’s nostrils and applying cow dung on the umbilical cord stump greatly affect a baby’s health. Infections are galore and rampant and there is no way to check them.

The need of the hour is to provide basic healthcare facilities to the population. However, that seems like a distant dream as medical care has been given minimal importance till death. We leave you with a list that will make the bravest heart shudder with fear and apprehension.

  • In West Bengal alone, 44 neonatal deaths have occurred in the past 2 months. Out of this staggering amount, 26 infants have died between July 8 and 10 in two hospitals in Murshidabad.
  • New Delhi has reported a large number of incubator deaths including Meerut and Allahabad.
  • In Nagpur, an infant died last year due to heater burns.
  • Government Rajindra Hospital reported the death of at least 6 newborn babies in 2009 because of faulty incubators. The little ones were in fact charred to death.