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India to lead war against child mortality: Health minister

India to lead war against child mortality: Health ministerChennai, Feb 7 : India will be in the forefront of the war against child deaths and ensure that no child dies owing to causes that can be prevented, union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad said Thursday.

"India will remain in the forefront of the war against child deaths and do everything that it takes to ensure that no child dies of a cause that can be prevented," Azad said while inaugurating the health summit 'India's Call to Action - Child Survival and Development Summit' at Mamallapuram, around 70 km from here.

The minister added: "If we can win the battle against polio, we can surely win the war against child mortality."

The three-day summit is being organised by the central government in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The minister also hoped that the delegates present at the summit would "join hands to collectively bend the curve on child mortality in India, something that I believe is quite possible, though by no means easy."

Referring to the fall in the mortality rate of under five children at a rate faster than the global average, Azad said its decline in rural areas and in states with weak health indicators is both sharp and steady.

He said the fall in under five mortality rate has boosted the government's confidence in several innovative measures taken under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

The government plans to cover over 270 million children from birth to 18 years of age for early identification of birth defects, diseases, disabilities, deficiencies and developmental delays under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakrama (RBSK) scheme, according to the minister.

He also said that children diagnosed with any such illnesses would be managed and treated free of cost under the NRHM.

Azad added that the biggest challenge facing the country is bringing down the neonatal mortality which accounts for 55 percent of under five deaths.

Given the fact that child mortality is linked to social aspects, Azad expressed satisfaction that other arms of the government are taking initiatives like restructuring of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), focusing on nutrition in 200 "high-burden" districts and improving sanitation.

Referring to the role of states in healthcare, the minister said that states would now be able to receive additional funding for introducing sector-wide reforms such as free medicines, creation of a public health cadre and inter-sectoral convergence initiatives. (IANS)