India holds a dubious distinction of the highest death rate for children under five and the highest maternal deaths in the world. It has a shortage of 2.6 million health workers, according to a new report released by Save the Children, an international NGO. The report by Save the Children India said that at 900,000 a year, India has the largest number of newborn deaths and is among five countries that account for more than half of the world’s 3.3 million newborn deaths. The others are Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This falls way below the World Health Organization health worker threshold of 2.3 health workers per 1000 people.
Seven Indian states rule the charts for this unfortunate cause and they are—Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand—these are also the states with the fewest healthcare workers, the report said. Madhya Pradesh tops the list with a shortage of 88 % health workers followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar at 87% and 82%.
As per the report, this shortfall means that close to 1.2 million children below the age of one die every year in India from easily preventable diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea because of lack of access to a trained health worker which includes doctors at primary health centers and auxiliary nurse midwives.
Coincidentally, the release of the report coincides with the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s meeting in New York, and an international publicity event held by UN secretary general in New York to highlight the progress of Every Woman, Every Child, a global program aimed at saving the lives of 16 million women and addressing major health challenges faced by women and children globally.
Globally there is a shortage of 3.5 million doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers in the world’s 49 poorest countries. Among its other recommendations, the report has asked for an increase in per capita spending on health and providing for additional health workers.