An RTI query has revealed that the total number of deaths of children and mothers as well as of stillbirths in the Melghat region of Amravati district has gone up by a whopping 200 between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The RTI query was filed by activist Abhay Kolarkar. The reply shows that infant (0-1 year) deaths were up from 207 to 280, child (0-6years) deaths from 283 to 407 and mothers’ deaths from 7 to 15. The stillbirth number, however, dropped marginally from 141 to 136. All four categories together showed a rise of 200, from 638 in 2015-16 to 838 in 2016-17.
Interestingly, all these numbers were showing continued decline on government records from 2012-13, when the total of all four above-mentioned heads was 828. Over the next three years, the official records showed the number dropping to 728, 705 and 638. In these four years, the infant death count was 280, 242, 231 and 207 and child death was 408, 338, 344 and 283. The still-birth count recorded was 127, 134, 123 and 141. Corresponding numbers for mothers’ deaths for these four years were recorded as 13, 14, 7 and 7.
The total number of births in the years 2012-13 to 2016-17 were registered as 6,658, 6,398, 5,558, 5,945 and 4,917. The infant mortality rate (IMR) – deaths per 1,000 births – for these years works out to 42, 37, 41, 43 and 56, in that order. In 2017-18, the official numbers are again showing a drop. Against 942 births till June 17, the infant death tally stands at 35, child deaths 45, stillbirths 22 and mother’s death, 1.
According to health activist Ashish Satav, whose Mahan Trust is providing healthcare in over 100 villages in Dharni and Chikhaldara tahsils that together constitute Melghat, the sudden spurt in 2016-17 is actually due to the September 5, 2016 directive of the Bombay High Court to the state government to correctly and diligently report all the deaths and desist from under-reporting.
“From our experience in these 100 villages, we knew that the government numbers were not covering all the deaths. So, we had filed a PIL in the HC that had directed correct reporting of all deaths and evaluation of the numbers by an independent agency. That work was carried out by UNICEF,” Satav told The Indian Express. District Health Officer Suresh Asole said, “This year, we have started intensive examination of children as well as mothers at health camps held every fortnight as per directives of Health Minister Deepak Sawant.
These camps have helped arrest the rising trend. As of now the number of infant deaths till June this year stands at half the corresponding figure of last year.” He added: “We are holding three more camps on August 13, which the minister will visit personally.”
Kolarkar’s RTI query reply also shows the current status of government healthcare facilities in Melghat. The list has 1 sub-district hospital, 2 rural hospitals, 11 primary health centres, 6 primary health squads, 7 mobile health squads, 4 ayurvedic dispensaries, 1 allopathic dispensary, 95 sub-centres and 22 flying squads. Together, however, these have only one child specialist, two women’s health specialists and one anaesthetist.