Infant Mortality


Infant mortality is an epidemiological (epidemiology considers the factors affecting the health and illness of populations) indicator and is widely recognised as representing an important measure of the level of healthcare in a country. This is because there is a direct correlation with the health status of pregnant women, children and infants together with the availability of medical care, of socioeconomic factors as well as the prevailing methodologies relating to public health.

The following factors may also have a bearing on infant mortality:

Infanticide – This refers to the intentional killing of a young child. In many cases, it is the mother who instigates the crime. In some previous societies, certain forms of infanticide were regarded as acceptable, e.g. female infanticide was more prevalent than the killing of male offspring in accordance with sex-selective infanticide, in which male children were more highly valued than female offspring.

Child Abuse – This refers to the physical and/or psychological and emotional maltreatment of children. Most child abuse takes place in the child's home, but a
lesser amount occurs in the organisations, schools or communities in which the child comes into contact. Child abuse can be classified in four distinct ways: neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.

Child Abandonment - This refers to the relinquishment of any involvement or claim over one's offspring not just for the present, but in the future. The reasons for such an act include many social and cultural factors as well as mental illness. An abandoned child is normally referred to as a foundling (in contast to a runaway or an orphan).

Neglect – It is a form of abuse. It may involve failure to provide adequate supervision, sustenance, medical care or other requirements for which the victim is unable to provide for themselves.

The concept of infant mortality may be characterised by the following terminology:

Perinatal mortality - It relates to the death of a fetus or neonate, with the sum of the two being known as the perinatal mortality.
The causes can include the following:
Preterm birth is the most common giving rise to almost 30 percent of neonatal deaths. Infant respiratory distress syndrome is the primary cause of death in preterm infants, and affects around 1% of newborns.
Birth defects are responsible for around 21 percent of neonatal deaths.
Perinatal mortality solely refers to deaths that occur between the period of fetal viability (which is normally after 22 weeks gestation) and the 7th day after delivery.

Neonatal mortality - This only includes deaths that occur within the initial 28 days of life.

Post neonatal mortality - This refers simply to deaths occurring after the initial 28 days of life, but within a period of one year.

Child mortality - This refers to the death of infants and children that occurs within the first five years following birth.
Globally, in 2008, 8.8 million children below the age of five died. This compares with the 9.2 million deaths in 2007, and 12.7 million in 1990. In the region of 50% of child deaths occur in Africa, with around 60 countries being responsible for 94% of the under five child deaths.

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