Nearly two million children under five die every year in India – one every 15 seconds – the highest number anywhere in the world. More than half die in the month after birth and 400,000 in their first 24 hours.
A devastating report by Save the Children, due out on Monday, reveals that the poor are disproportionately affected and the charity accuses the country of failing to provide adequate healthcare for the impoverished majority of its one billion people. While the World Bank predicts that India’s economy will be the fastest-growing by next year and the country is an influential force within the G20, World Health Organisation figures show it ranks 171st out of 175 countries for public health spending.
Malnutrition, neonatal diseases, diarrhoea and pneumonia are the major causes of death. Poor rural states are particularly affected by a dearth of health resources. But even in the capital, Delhi, where an estimated 20% of people live in slums, the infant mortality rate is reported to have doubled in a year, though city authorities dispute this.