Health ministry revises infant mortality target for 12th Plan

Dzongkhags will target to halve the mortality rates

Following intense deliberation on the impossibility of achieving the health ministry’s target to achieve zero infant mortality by the end of the 11th Plan, the ministry has now revised the targets for the dzongkhags.

During the 4th biennial health conference this month, the ministry recommended new targets for the 12th Plan for the dzongkhags.

Health secretary Dr Ugen Dophu said the target is not realistic nor achievable. “Even in developed countries, the infant mortality rate target is not zero.”

Chief Medical Officer in Punakha, Dr Choni Wangmo said at the conference that the zero infant mortality target is not achievable and suggested the ministry to reconsider and clarify the target.

Dr Ugen Dophu said the dzongkhags had set the infant mortality target to zero when planning the 11th Plan without consulting the ministry.

“The argument for keeping the target zero is that it is inauspicious to have a number for infant deaths as a target,” Dr Ugen Dophu said. “For instance, if the infant mortality target is kept as five then it means we will allow five children to die and it is inauspicious. This is the argument.”

However, Dr Ugen Dophu said the issue has been sorted out. “The dzongkhags will set their next five-years target based on the dzongkhag’s baseline,” Dr Ugen Dophu said.

This means, an average of infant deaths in the last five years in a dzongkhag will be taken as the baseline to set the target for infant mortality (0-5 years). The targets for each dzongkhag are to halve the deaths by the end of the 12th Plan.

According to Health Management Information System, with an average of 102, Paro had the highest number of infant deaths in the last five years (2012 to 2016). This number becomes the dzongkhag’s base line for it to set the target for the 12th Plan. The recommended target for the district is to have less than 50 infant deaths in the next five-years.

Samtse has the second highest baseline at 89 and their target for the 12th Plan is to not have more than 45 infant mortalities. Mongar has an average of 80 infant deaths while it is 78 for Trashigang. The recommended target for Mongar is to have less than 40 under five deaths while for Trashigang, the target is not to have more than 39 infant deaths.

Gasa has the least under-five mortality in the last five years with the baseline at 5. The district will have to target to have less than three infant deaths. With 10 as its baseline, Trongsa’s recommended under-five mortality target is less than three.

The same principle will be applied to set the maternal mortality targets in the 12th Plan.

Based on the average of cases it saw over the last five years, Thimphu has the highest maternal mortality rate at 15. The recommended target for the 12th Plan is to not have more than 8 maternal deaths.

The recommended target of maternal mortality for Mongar whose baseline is 10, is to have less than five maternal deaths.

For the remaining districts with a baseline less than 4, the recommended target in the next five years is to not have more than two maternal deaths. Baseline for Bumthang, Punakha, Trashiyangtse, and Tsirang is zero.

Dr Ugen Dophu said that all district health officers have been briefed on preparing the 12th Plan based on the ministry’s priorities.

Dechen Tshomo

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