The number of deaths among infants and children in India continued to fall as the country recorded a significant improvement in the survival of girl children, found a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group.

The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, or UNIGME, released data on Tuesday showing that India’s infant mortality rate – that is, deaths between birth and the age of one – had dropped to 32 for every 1,000 live births in 2017 from 34 in 2016. In absolute numbers, this translates to 8,02,000 infant deaths in 2017 compared to 8,67,000 infant deaths in 2016.

The neonatal mortality rate, or death within the first 28 days of life, has dipped from 25 per 1,000 live births in 2016 to 24 in 2017, which is about 6,05,000 deaths in all.

The mortality rate among all children under the age of five was 39 or 1,000 live births in 2017, or about 9,89,000 deaths. The under-five mortality rate among males was 39 in 1,000 and for females, it was 40 in 1,000, indicating a narrowing of the gender gap.

Among older children between the ages of five and 14, there were 1,52,000 deaths in 2017, which is a probability of 21 deaths among every 1,000 children.

UNICEF India representative Yasmin Ali Haque said there had been a four-fold decline in the gender gap in survival of the girl child over the last five years, and called the development heartening, PTI reported.

“The efforts for improving institutional delivery, along with countrywide scale up of special newborn care units and strengthening of routine immunization, have been instrumental towards this,” Haque said, adding that ensuring holistic nutrition and making India open defecation-free by 2019 are steps that will help in accelerating the progress.

The report estimates that globally, 6.3 million children aged below 15 died in 2017, of which 5.4 million occurred in the first five years of life, with newborns accounting for around half of the deaths. Most children under five die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria, the report added.

Experts from UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Bank have called for urgent action to prevent another 56 million deaths of children below five by 2030 by providing better access to medicines, clean water, electricity and vaccines.