For the first time, air pollution’s global impact on newborns report concluded that pollution in households and outdoors caused 1,16,000 infants to die in the first months of their lives in 2019 in the country.

According to the State of Global Air 2020, more than 50 percent of these deaths were related to outdoor levels of air pollution in the country. The outdoor air pollution level was PM2.5 in 2019. It also stated that other deaths were associated with the use of solid fuels like charcoal, animal dung, and wood, for cooking.

The study also revealed that long-term exposure to household and outdoor air pollution added to over 1.67 million deaths annually from a heart attack, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and neonatal diseases in the country.

Low birth weight and preterm birth were also some common factors that lead to most deaths in the youngest infants. Overall, it can be concluded that air pollution is the reason for the highest deaths among all other health risks combined.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia account for more than 80 percent of the 5.2 million deaths of children under the age of five in 2019. Although they only account for 52 percent of the global under-five population. Half of the under-five deaths globally occurred in five countries, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.

Every 1 in 13 children aged under-five die in these countries according to the study.

CountryUnder-five deathsLower boundUpper bound
Democratic Republic of the Congo291187440
United Republic of Tanzania10378172
Top 10 countries with the largest numbers of deaths of children aged under-five years in 2019, per 1000 live births. Data obtained from the WHO official website.

India’s infant mortality rate from 1990-2019

(Picture Credits: Statista 2020)

India’s child mortality rate has declined significantly in 30 years. According to a report published by the United Nations warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening all the progress and efforts done by countries in order to eliminate child deaths globally.

The key findings of the ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality report’ 2020 conducted by the Aspirant World conclude that the under-5 mortality rates (U5MR) have declined by almost 60 percent since 1990. It also states that Nigeria and India account for almost the third position in U5MR.

The Under 5 Mortality Rate signifies the probability of death between the day of an individual’s birth and exactly 5 years of age. It is expressed per 1000 live births. The Neonatal mortality rate is signified by the probability of death of an individual between birth and 28 days of age, per 1000 live births. The Adolescent mortality rate is signified by the probability of death of an individual between the ages of 10 and 19, per 1000 children aged 10.

It also stated that newborn mortality is not declining as rapidly as the mortality of children from the ages of 1-59 months. 47 percent of all under-five deaths occurred in the neonatal period in the year 2019 and it was 40 percent in the year 1990. The adolescent mortality rate also has declined by almost 40 percent since 1990. 122 countries had U5MR below the sustainable development goal (SDG) of 25 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births in the previous year.

India has experienced a decline in neonatal mortality rates between the years 1990 and 2019. In 1990 the neonatal mortality rate was 57 and in 2019 it is 22. If we take a look at the gender specificity, in the year 1990, the U5MR stood at 122 males and 131 females and now in the year 2019, it has decreased to 34 males and 35 females.

The ability to access life-saving interventions and techniques is very important if a country wants to ensure a steady mortality decrease in countries with low and middle incomes.

The responsibility of preventing this has shifted from hospitals and healthcare facilities to education, transportation and road infrastructure, law enforcement, and water and sanitation ministries. All of these need to work together to curb the deaths of infants and young adults and minimise them as per the standard sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.

The Sustainable Development Goal: What is it and what it the global response to it?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the goals taken up by the United Nations in 2015. These goals were introduced to promote healthy lives and well-being for children of all ages. The SDG consists of 17 goals in total.

  • No Poverty
  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health and Well-Being
  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action
  • Life Below Water
  • Life on Land
  • Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • Partnerships for the Goals

These 17 factors determine the overall aims of the United Nations, required for sustainable development. The SDG Goal 3.2.1 is aimed at ending preventable deaths of newborns and children aged under-5 by 2030. There are two main targets determined for achieving this goal.

  • Reduction of newborn mortality in every country to as low as 12 per 1000 live births at least.
  • Reduction of under-5 mortality in every country to as low as 25 per 1000 live births at least.

In the previous year, 122 countries hit the target for the under-5 mortality and 20 more countries are expected to hit the SDG target by the year 2030.

Air Quality Index 2020 and India

Air Quality Index (AQI) is a numerical scale used to measure and report air quality of an area on a given day. The major parameters on which the AQI is based on are, PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is a statutory organisation which works under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. The CPCB analyses the daily AQI data for different states ad cities of India and posts it on a daily basis on its official website.

New Delhi has been regarded as the world’s most polluted city by the WHO and the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 and 2016 respectively. For the past few decades, the world has been busy with various human activities that greatly contribute to air pollution.

The coronavirus has brought everything to halt. To study if the COVID-19 has affected air pollution, compared the AQI data of Arch-April 2019 and 2020. The comparison concluded, ‘The daily average AQI value for March- April 2019 is 656 and this value drastically reduced to more than half to 306 in March-April 2020.’

The statistics have raised concerns about poor air quality in India and health risks associated with it. The existing air quality problem is subject to improvement immediately, and it needs attention. The policies concerning air quality need immediate attention and the government needs to widen public awareness regarding the harmful effects of the same. The problem can be dealt with by taking small steps every day, it’s just that we need to step up and understand the importance of those small steps.

By Team

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