Myan­mar’s child and in­fant mor­tal­ity dras­ti­cally ex­ceeds re­gional av­er­age

The Myanmar Times - - News - My­in­tkaythi@mm­times.com MYINT KAY THI

DE­SPITE a de­cline over the past three decades, Myan­mar still has the sec­ond-high­est rate of child and in­fant mor­tal­ity in the ASEAN, ac­cord­ing to a re­port based on fig­ures from the 2014 cen­sus.

The “The­matic Re­port on Mor­tal­ity”, which was pre­pared by the Depart­ment of Pop­u­la­tion with tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance from the UN Pop­u­la­tion Fund (UNFPA), shows that the rate of child and in­fant mor­tal­ity in Myan­mar is nearly 250 per­cent higher than the av­er­age across South­east Asia.

Child and in­fant mor­tal­ity refers to deaths that oc­cur be­fore the age of five. In Myan­mar, 72 chil­dren out of every 1000 die be­fore reach­ing that age, whereas the re­gional av­er­age is closer to 30 deaths per 1000 births.

In Labutta town­ship, Aye­yarwaddy Re­gion, as many as one in six chil­dren die be­fore their fifth birth­day.

The rest of Aye­yarwady Re­gion, along with Magwe Re­gion and Chin State, recorded the high­est lev­els of un­der-five mor­tal­ity.

The re­port states that the sin­gle most im­por­tant fac­tor con­tribut­ing to the deaths of in­fants and chil­dren is low stan­dards of liv­ing. Mil­lions of peo­ple in Myan­mar live in dire con­di­tions in house­holds with­out safe drink­ing wa­ter, toi­lets or elec­tric­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, sub­stan­tial re­duc­tions in un­der-five mor­tal­ity could be achieved by im­prov­ing peo­ple’s liv­ing stan­dards, es­pe­cially in re­mote ar­eas.

The re­port also states that “there is a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween fer­til­ity and in­fant/child mor­tal­ity. The higher the num­ber of chil­dren al­ready born to a mother, the lower the sur­vival chance of a new child.”

Mar­ried woman in Myan­mar, on av­er­age, give birth to five chil­dren. A woman’s fifth child is over 500pc more likely to die than her first or sec­ond child.

Janet E Jack­son, UNFPA coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Myan­mar, said, “The find­ings un­cover the suf­fer­ing of chil­dren and fam­i­lies. Both in­fant and child mor­tal­ity would de­crease sig­nif­i­cantly if women if Myan­mar had bet­ter ac­cess to con­tra­cep­tives, and could choose how many chil­dren to have.”

Male chil­dren in Myan­mar are at much higher risk of an early death than fe­male chil­dren, the re­port re­vealed. The fig­ures show un­der-five mor­tal­ity is one-third higher for boys than it is for girls.

The re­port said a pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for this is that boys are of­ten given more au­ton­omy than girls, and en­counter more haz­ards such as traf­fic, faulty elec­tric wiring and falls. To help pro­tect young boys, the re­port calls for na­tional cam­paigns against harm­ful par­ent­ing prac­tices.

‘The higher the num­ber of chil­dren al­ready born to a mother, the lower the sur­vival chance of a new child.’

The­matic Re­port on Mor­tal­ity

Child and in­fant mor­tal­ity is a key in­di­ca­tor of the over­all health of a coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. Myan­mar’s rates are nearly two times higher than other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Most of the causes of early-age death are pre­ventable. In al­most all cases, un­der­ly­ing is­sues such as mal­nu­tri­tion and poverty can ex­ac­er­bate what might oth­er­wise be rel­a­tively straight­for­ward med­i­cal sit­u­a­tions.

Photo: Phyo Wai Kyaw

Aye­yarwady Re­gion was found to have the among the high­est rates of child mor­tal­ity in Myan­mar.

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