Pollution, poor sanitation kill India’s under-5 kids
India accounts for the second highest death rate of children under 5 years due to environmental risks -mainly pollution and poor sanitation -in the WHO southeast Asia region, which includes Bangla desh, Indonesia and Bhutan.
In fact, India fares far worse than China and is among the top 35 countries in the world with the highest death rate among under-5 children attributable to an unhealthy environment. While India recorded 248.14 deaths among children under-5 per lakh people annually, Myanmar (also part of the WHO’s southeast Asia region) reported over 297, new assessments by the UN agency show.
Globally , more than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years are attributable to unhealthy environments. Every year, environmental risks -such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation, and inadequate hygiene – take the lives of 1.7 million children under 5, according to two new WHO reports. Highlighting the need for improved sanitation in India to save children, the WHO report said 44% of India’s population defecate and urinate in open spaces, leading to greater risk of infectious diseases such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection along with malnutrition.
“National behaviour change handwashing programmes in India and China would produce large economic gains from reduced diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections such as a 92-fold return to investment in India and a 35-fold return to investment in China, “said one of the reports `Don’t Pollute My Future! The Impact of the Environment on Children’s Health’. India is also far ahead of China in under-5 deaths due to environmental factors.
The other report, ‘Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment’, shows a large portion of the most common causes of death among children aged 1 month to 5 years – namely diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia -are preventable by interventions such as access to safe water and clean cooking fuels.
The report also pointed at health risks from polluted drinking water, mainly presence of arsenic, which was causing serious risks to children’s health