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'8 in 10 Indians unaware of high child mortality rate'

Despite India reporting the highest child mortality rate in the world, eight out of 10 people do not know that 1.83 million children under five die every year in India, says a survey.

The Global Movement for Children, a coalition of organisations, conducted a month-long survey among middle-class respondents in five metros across India to understand how this influential section of society perceives the issue of child mortality.

The survey found that eight out of 10 among the middle class underestimate the levels of child mortality in India.

"Though nearly 60 percent of those surveyed felt the problem of child mortality was very serious in India, a shocking eight out of 10 did not know that nearly 2 million children under the age of five die every year in India," the survey found.

India has the highest number of children dying for any country in the world.

"It is indeed tragic that the majority of respondents underestimated the number of children dying every year. There is no real pressure for action largely because of lack of awareness about the scale of the problem," said Thomas Chandy of Save the Children.

The organisations that have commissioned the survey are working to spread public awareness about child mortality before a major global United Nations summit in New York in September where they want the Indian government to play a key role in tackling child mortality.

"The time is right for India to play a leadership role at the global summit in New York in order to drive momentum for tackling child mortality. We know that change is possible as we have already seen it in the states we work in India as well as in other countries," said Jayakumar Christian, national director of World Vision.

Interestingly, 55 percent of respondents in the survey felt optimistic that the situation regarding child mortality had improved in India.

The Global Movement for Children believes that a campaign targeting the middle class in India and shifting their attitudes toward child mortality will create the pressure for government action on policy change, implementation and investing in resources.

An overwhelming 92 percent of those surveyed felt that it was feasible for India to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 on reducing under-five mortality.

"The middle class in India is a small but growing segment of society whose influence on policy makers is considerable. It is critical for this category to be aware of the issues surrounding child mortality and be willing to take action for change to happen," said Edouard Beigbeder of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

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