Dozens of children have died recently at Gorakhpur's BRD Medical College. Photo: NDTV

Government data indicates a general decline in infant mortality rates in India over the past few years, but Uttar Pradesh has been bucking that trend with an alarmingly high number of children dying in its hospitals recently, according to media reports.

Forty-nine newborns died at the Farrukhabad government hospital between July 21 and August 20, allegedly due to oxygen supply problems. The chief medical officer and chief medical superintendent have been sacked and booked for negligence.

It is alleged that the children died due to a lack of oxygen, but hospital officials insist it was because they were extremely underweight or were admitted in critical condition. 

“Mortality in such children is quite high. Often, we get children who weigh less than a kilo or two. At times, the children are born with complications or there is a delay in being referred to the hospital from primary health centers. All these are the reasons,” said Dr Kailash Kumar, who is in charge of the hospital’s  Sick Newly-born Care Unit.

Recently, 61 infant deaths were reported over five days in the intensive care unit at a Gorakhpur’s government hospital, BRD Medical College, allegedly because the oxygen supply was cut off by its vendor after the institution failed to pay its bill. The hospital denied the allegation, insisting that the deaths occurred due to medical reasons. Nine people were booked in connection with the deaths after the Opposition politicized the tragedy by targeting the state government.

Data on infant deaths at BRD Medical College for the past few years are even more shocking. According to data compiled by the Uttar Pradesh health department, which was made available to PTI, 1,317 children have died in the state-run facility so far this year. The number of infant deaths stood at 5,850 in 2014, 6,917 in 2015 and 6,121 in 2016. It translates to an average of 16 infant deaths a day in 2014, 19 in 2015, 17 in 2016 and 5.3 up to August this year.

The National Family Health Survey-4  for 2015-16 unveiled by the Health Ministry estimated the infant mortality rate was 41 per 1,000 live births.