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Infants global mortality ‘alarmingly high’, says UNICEF

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Amina Shallangwa, a UNICEF-supported midwife (third from left), talks with new mothers at a UNICEF-supported health clinic in Muna Garage IDP camp, Maiduguri, Borno PHOTO:NAN

Newborns are dying at “alarmingly high” rates in countries that are poor, conflict-ridden or have weak institutions, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday in a new report.

The new UNICEF report revealed that babies born in these places were 50 times more likely to die in the first month of life than those born in some wealthier nations.

The report also noted that eight of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria ranked 13th country with the largest number of newborn deaths in 2016 with 247 deaths in 1,000 and accounted for nine per cent of share of all global newborn deaths.

Countries with the highest newborn mortality rates are Pakistan – 1 in 22, Central African Republic – 1 in 24, Afghanistan – 1 in 25, Somalia – 1 in 26, Lesotho – 1 in 26, Guinea-Bissau – 1 in 26, South Sudan – 1 in 26, Côte d’Ivoire – 1 in 27, Mali – 1 in 28 and Chad – 1 in 28.

In these countries, pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions.

“Every year, 2.6 million newborns around the world do not survive their first month of life. One million of them die the day they are born.

“We know we can save the vast majority of these babies with affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and every newborn.

“Just a few small steps from all of us can help ensure the first small steps of each of these young lives.

“Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly, we are failing the world’s poorest babies,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

According to the report, babies born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore have the best chance of survival, while newborns in Pakistan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan face the worst odds.

UNICEF said globally, in low-income countries, the average newborn mortality rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births, the report says. In high-income countries, that rate is 3 deaths per 1,000.

The report stated that in Japan, one in 1,111 newborn babies die in the first month of life while in Pakistan, the ratio is one in 22.

It added that if every country brought its newborn mortality rate down to the high-income average by 2030, 16 million lives could be saved.

More than 80 per cent of newborn deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis, the report said.

The report said deaths could be prevented with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition.

However, a shortage of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don’t receive the life-saving support they need to survive, it stressed.

For example, while in Norway there are 218 doctors, nurses and midwives to serve 10,000 people, that ratio is one per 10,000 in Somalia.

This month, UNICEF is launching Every Child ALIVE, a global campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns.


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