New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Jharkhand government on the reported deaths of 52 infants in a Jamshedpur hospital.
The deaths occurred over a period of 30 days at Jamshedpur’s . This was reported on August 27, 2017 the news agency ANI.
The state-managed college’s medical superintendent B Bhushan says the number of deaths is not extraordinary. “More deaths were reported this month because more children were admitted,” he told IndiaSpend, adding that patients from Bengal too come to the hospital.
The deaths in Jamshedpur come two weeks after 70 children died at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital at Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, revealing the depth of the crisis in India’s public-health system.
The NHRC, who took sou motu cognizance of media reports, observed that the “painful deaths” of children and infants, in such a large number, are a matter of concern.
The commission said it has also learnt that the cause of the deaths is reportedly malnutrition.
Accordingly, the commission has issued notice to Jharkhand’s Chief Secretary calling for a report within six weeks.
It has also asked the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry to take immediate action by way of issuance of suitable directions to all the states and union territories so that due to any negligence, such tragic deaths do not take place in any hospital in the country.
Jamshedpur, a city of 1.3 million, is the largest city in Jharkhand by population, and one of India’s oldest industrial cities. However, the state’s health indicators are among India’s worst, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of 2015-2016 national health data, the latest available.
Forty of these 52 infant deaths were in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and 12 in the pediatric intensive care unit, said Bhushan. “Thirty-eight of the 40 infant deaths in NICU were due to low birth weight, other deaths were due to premature births and other complications like asphyxia,” he added.
“The most common reason for low weight babies is malnutrition in mothers,” he explained, saying that many mothers who come to the hospital are tribals, and from the poorest strata of society.
Child under nutrition can not only lead to child deaths, but malnourished children also have lower cognitive abilities and are less productive members of a country’s workforce. “A failure to invest in combating nutrition reduces potential economic growth,” a 2015 World Bank report noted.
Some districts in Jharkhand have India’s worst health indicators, according to 2015 National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, analyzed by the International Food Policy Research Institute in New Delhi.
Paschim Singhbhum in Jharkhand has the 7th highest rate of stunting–low height for age–in India, with 59.4 percent of children stunted.
Three of Jharkhand’s districts are among 10 Indian districts with the highest rates of wasting in children under the age of 5 years–Purbi Singhbhum, Dumka and Khunti. These districts are also among the worst off when it comes to severe wasting among children.
Jharkhand spent 750 rupees per capita on health in 2014-2015, compared to 810 rupees spent by other empowered action group states that have some of the poorest socio-economic indicators in India.
Jharkhand spent 1.14 percent of their state’s gross domestic product (GDP) on health in 2015-2016, less than the average of 1.35 percent of GDP spent by EAG states, according to the 2017 National Health Profile.
One explanation for these indicators is that 62.5 percent of Purbi Singhbhum district is tribal. In general, tribals are among India’s most disadvantaged communities, and their children among the most malnourished.
Jamshedpur, named after Sir Jamshedji Tata, the founder of Tata Steel, was founded in 1919. As one of the few cities in a state where 76 percent of the population lives in rural areas–compared to 69 percent for the Indian average–it caters to scores of poor, tribal-dominated villages and towns.
There is also a direct positive correlation between the mother’s health and her child’s health as IndiaSpend reported on January 5, 2016.