T.N. posits higher figure for sex ratio at birth

In the last five years, it has been in the range of 900s, not 867 as listed in NFHS-5

While acknowledging that the National Family Health Survey-5 has presented a realistic assessment of women and child health in Tamil Nadu this year, the State has offered real-time statistics to show that the sex ratio at birth is not as bad as recorded in the NFHS data.

Using data from the Civil Registration System (available in the public domain), health officials have shown that the sex ratio at birth over the last five years has been in the 900s range, and not 867 as listed in NFHS-5. In fact, the trend has been upward, with the ratio of women to men improving incrementally over the years, and dropping marginally to 939 in 2020.

“This is data, as real as it gets, since it comes from the Civil Registration System. Parents record whether they have male or female children in the birth certificate. It is based on records and therefore are indisputable. We also have individual data on the birth certificates. They present a more realistic picture of sex ratio at birth. Sex Ratio at birth has consistently been over 930 since 2016,” explains Darez Ahmed, Mission Director, National Health Mission.

It may be remembered that Tamil Nadu disputed the finding of the District-Level Household Survey-4 2012-13 that only 56% of children aged 12-23 months in the State were fully vaccinated. It was lesser than the figure reported even in the previous surveys, the State contended.

Subsequently, cluster surveys conducted by researchers at the Department of Epidemiology, ICMR-National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai, led by Manoj Murhekar, showed that fully vaccinated children as per mother’s recall was 79.9%, and the validated coverage of vaccines with cards was 79.9%. In a paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in 2017, the researchers averred that vaccine coverage in the State was about 80%.

Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan said with particular reference to the DLHS vaccination count that during that particular year, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had introduced the pentavalent vaccine (five-in-one vaccine), so a question on separate injections for what the pentavalent vaccine replaced was not perceived properly. “In the case of this year’s NLHS and the sex ratio at birth statistic, it might probably be an error of sampling. The actual figures are obviously more reliable. While a sample survey will help in places where data is not available or difficult to come by, where actual granular data is available as in the CRS here, we would rather go by the latter,” he explained.

But he hastened to add that Tamil Nadu takes the NFHS seriously as a means to correct what needs to be corrected in the State.

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