Concern over High Rate of Infant Mortality in Dhubri District, Assam

High rate of infant mortality in Dhubri

A Correspondent

DHUBRI: Breastfeeding within one-hour of birth is above 99 per cent in Dhubri district. This is the highest breastfeeding percentage compared to any State or national-level data of the last few years. However, this fails to bring down the Under 5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) in the district. According to the Health Management Information System (HMIS), 49,047 Infants were breastfed within one hour of birth out of total 49,213 live born babies in Dhubri district in 2017-18 and 54,520 pregnant women registered under antenatal check-up for the same year.
When this scribe visited Charjogipara village near Gauripur of the district and talked to a lactating mother, Alisha Khatun (19), with a baby of 8 months in her lap, she said that she had fed the baby within one-hour of the birth and remained under constant monitoring of ASHA since the day of detection of pregnancy. “I obeyed the advice of didis (ASHA and ANM) and breastfed my baby till six months and now I have started giving supplementary food. But in addition to it, I am feeding my baby breast milk,” Khatun further said.

When asked on the problems she has to often encounter in the village, Sanatan Bibi, an ASHA of the Charjogipara Gaon Panchayat, said that two to three families were there in her village who gave strong resistance during vaccination of pregnant women, mothers and babies. “In 2017-18, there were 70 live births but five died within three months, rest are hale and healthy. Miscalculation of date of last menstrual period (LMP) was the main reason for most of the deaths within few hours of birth,” Sanatan Bibi observed.

Azizur Rahman Ahmed, Progamme Manager of Dharmasala Health Block of the district, informed that to ensure breastfeeding within one hour of birth, registration of pregnant women within the first trimester was a vital parameter. This was 68 per cent during 2017-18 but improved to 82 per cent during the first quarter (April to June) of 2018-19.

However, there is hardly any decreasing trend in U5MR because as per Sample Registration Survey (SRS) of 2016, U5MR (per 1000) was 44 in Assam while 34 in India, and in Dhubri district, it is assumed to be even higher. A member of Dhubri District Child Death Review Committee and a paediatrician, Dr Tapas Mazumdar claimed that as per record of Dhubri Civil Hospital, U5MR was less compared to the national-level figure. It is a fact that figures available are mostly based and collected from institutional delivery, which puts U5MR at 57 per 1000 in the district, while data of home delivery and U5MR seem to be doubtful. Data from breastfeeding to U5MR could hardly be found anywhere with authenticity and this is one of the areas of great concern as it fails to bring down the U5MR in the district. It has also been observed that U5MR can be attributed first to miscalculation of LMP which leads to critical stage of delivery, coupled with negligence on the part of institutions. Second, most mothers are found to be anaemic and under nourished, resulting in birth of underweight baby with respiratory trouble and other allied health problems.