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British Funds 250 Million Pounds to Reduce Child Mortality

Millions of people in India who live on less than 50 pence (Rs.40) a day will benefit from 250 million pounds of new aid from Britain aimed at reducing the number of children who die before their fifth birthday.

The funds will also be used to ensure that when mothers give birth, a doctor or nurse is available to provide medical back up - giving them and their babies a much better chance of survival.

Groups at a high risk of AIDS such as commercial sex workers and injectible drug users will benefit from funds for expanding education programmes that teach them how to protect themselves, an official release here said.

Gareth Thomas, minister for international development, said: "India has gained a reputation as a major economic superpower. But we should not forget that one in three Indians survive on less than 50 pence a day.

"Only one in four children from India's poorest families are immunised against killer diseases compared to three in four from the richest. Funds will also help to improve healthcare for other socially excluded groups such as Dalits (formerly known as 'untouchables'), indigenous people, and minorities, including Muslims."

Most of the funding will go directly to the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Orissa is one of the poorest states in India with 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Children from Scheduled Castes and Tribes, which together make up more than one in three of the state's population, are 25 percent more likely to die before their fifth birthday than those from other groups in the state, the release said.

In Madhya Pradesh, where 37 percent of the population live below the poverty line, deprivation is highest among Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Nearly 14 percent of children die before their fifth birthday, compared to a national average of 10 percent. Sixty percent (three in five) of children unde
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