According to the National Child Health Review-2016 held in New Delhi last week, Punjab, along with Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, figure at the bottom when it comes to gender-wise gap of the mortality rate of children below five years.
In the state, 31 children die by the age of five to different diseases per 1,000 births per year. However, the gender-wise details reveal a huge gap.
There are 36 female deaths as against 26 of male children. Thus, there is a huge gap of 10 between male and female deaths. However, the national gap is just six. Even neghibouring Haryana fares better than Punjab with a gap of seven deaths among female children.
When it comes to other states, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are the worst performers with a gap of 15 and 12 deaths, respectively. UP is at a par with Punjab with gap of 10 deaths. Some of the states in which there is not much gap in male and female child mortality rate include Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat etc.
The data also reveals that the situation is worse in the rural areas in the state. In rural areas, the mortality rate is 41 among female children. However, among males it is just 29. In urban areas, Punjab is still maintaining the balance with mortality rate of 26 among female children and 21 among male children.
Experts say the data is testimony that the female child is still not being treated at par with male child. “It means that when girl child falls sick, she doesn’t get the same treatment which a male child gets,” said Dr Rajesh Kumar, Head, School of Public Health, PGI Chandigarh. He said that it is also common that male children get breastfeeding for longer time as compared to female children.
“Where there are free services, you won’t get the same gap. Like in immunisation, the gap is lesser,” he said.
Dr Dharam Pal, Director, Health and Family Welfare, said that the issue was in their notice. “To reduce the gap sometime back we had started providing absolutely free treatment to girls up to the age of five,” he said.