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Identifying kids in India by thumbprints may help save lives

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Digital scans of young children's fingerprints can be correctly recognised one year later and may be used for proper healthcare and record keeping in developing countries like India, helping save millions of lives, scientists say.

Anil Jain and his team at Michigan State University in the US showed they can correctly identify children six months old over 99 per cent of the time based on their two thumbprints.

"Despite efforts of international health organisations and NGOs, children are still dying because it is been believed that it wasn't possible to use body traits such as fingerprints to identify children. We've just proven it is possible," said Jain.

"Whether in a developing nation, refugee camp, homeless shelter or, heaven forbid, a kidnapping situation, a child's identity could be verified if they had their fingerprint scanned at birth and included in a registry," he said.

The study was conducted at Agra's Saran Ashram hospital in Uttar Pradesh, where fingerprints of 309 children between the age of 0-5 years were collected over the course of a year.

The data was processed to show that state-of-the-art fingerprint capture and recognition technology offers a viable solution for recognising children enrolled at age 6 months or older.

One application is saving lives by tracking vaccination records. Vaccination records are traditionally kept on paper charts, but paper is easily lost or destroyed.

Fingerprints once captured in a database could be accessed by medical professionals to reliably record immunisation schedules and other medical information, researchers said.

In additional to medical histories, capturing a child's fingerprint has uses in national identification.

Many countries have some form of national identification system, such as the Unique Identification Authority of India, which enrolls any resident over five years old using biometric identifiers.

With approximately 25 million births each year, would like to lower the enrolment age.

Capturing a baby's fingerprints at age six months or older would assist them in this process and ensure proper identification from an early age.

A digital fingerprint identity system will give children an identity for a lifetime to help combat children and at-risk adults from human trafficking, refugee crisis situations, kidnappings or lack of basic services.

"The impact of child fingerprinting will be enormous in improving lives of the disadvantaged," said Sandeep Ahuja, CEO of Operation ASHA, an NGO dedicated to bringing tuberculosis treatment and health services to

"It could save 5 million lives just by ensuring implementation of well-known measures immediately after birth, like breast feeding, by tracking interaction of health workers and newborns in underdeveloped countries," Ahuja said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, October 18 2016. 18:33 IST