Health indicators of the urban poor are worse than their rural counterparts, a parliamentary panel has said slamming the government for its failure to launch a key programme for the health of nine crore people who live in slums in big towns and cities. With an increasing number of urban poor and few government policies for them, the report has slammed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for not launching the much talked about National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). The programme, which has been sketched on the lines of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), is supposed to focus on the healthcare needs of the urban poor. The ministry has however not been able to start the programme because of paucity of funds.
“Presently, more than nine crore people of the country have been identified as urban poor, mostly residing in urban slums. The level of availability of healthcare facilities to these poor people is worse than that available to the rural poor,” a department related parliamentary standing committee looking into the health ministry said in its report, a copy of which is available with IANS.
“…Their health indicators are also worse than that available to the rural poor,” the report said.
“The committee accordingly opines that non-rolling of the National Urban Health Mission on account of no provision of funds would further impact health indicators of poor people residing in urban slums,” it said. India has the world’s second largest urban population after China and an estimated 80.8 million people in urban areas live below the poverty line. More than 50 percent of urban poor children are underweight and almost 60 percent of urban poor children miss total immunization before completing one year.
As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) III data, the under five mortality rate among urban poor, at 72.7, is significantly higher than the urban average of 51.9. Poor environmental conditions in slums along with a high population density makes the residents there vulnerable to lung diseases like asthma and tuberculosis (TB). Slums also have a high incidence of vector borne diseases (VBDs) and cases of malaria among the urban poor are twice that among other urban residents.
The committee has recommended that the health department seek allocation from the Planning Commission for the mission. ”…the committee recommends that the department should once again assess its fund requirements realistically and thereafter move the Planning Commission for augmentation of financial resources for the health sector,” the report said, adding that the committee would like to be apprised of the follow-up action.
Health ministry officials say the programme is likely to be implemented in the 12th plan period. ”The NUHM is to be implemented during the 12th plan period,” an official from the ministry told IANS. ”The funds are limited, but as we increase the funding in the 12th plan to achieve the target of reaching 2.5 percent (of GDP for health) in this plan, NUHM will also be implemented,” he said.
The official did not give an exact timeframe for implementing the programme but added that revisions would be there in terms of coverage. ”Since the urban slum population has increased and we also have fresh estimates from the census, there can be some revisions in the volume of the cover,” the official added.