Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, the poor health of mothers, where between 10 - 20 per cent are underweight, contributes to high rates of death for babies, as does the relatively high number of young mothers who give birth before their bodies have matured. Other factors are low use of contraception, poor access to decent healthcare when pregnant and a severe shortage of health-workers.
In East Asia and the Pacific, progress has been made and the number of newborn deaths is declining. South Asia, Bangladesh and Nepal have made significant progress in reducing newborn deaths, but in other countries including India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, child marriage and the poor nutritional status of mothers are factors in the regions' stubbornly high levels of newborn deaths.
In the industrialized world, the United States has the highest first-day death rate. The U.S. has approximately 50 per cent more first-day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined, due, in part, to higher premature birth rates.
Compared to top-ranked countries, Canada could be doing better. While the United States has the highest first-day death rate in the industrialized world, Canada and Switzerland have the second and third highest rates, respectively. Newborns in these three countries are at least four times as likely to die on the day they are born as babies born in the lowest mortality countries where first-day death rates are at or below 0.5 per 1,000 live births.
While the data are not conclusive, it is clear that significantly higher child mortality rates in the remote north contribute to Canada's lower ranking. More research still needs to be done to determine the precise causes for these rates - and for the regional variation one finds across the country - so that proper public health policies and investments in health systems can be implemented. Save the Children strongly believes that Canada should - and has the capacity to - do much better to support newborn lives.
The report identifies four lifesaving products that can be used to save lives in the developing world: corticosteroid injections to women in preterm labour to reduce deaths caused by newborns' breathing problems; resuscitation devices to save babies who do not breathe at birth; chlorhexidine cord cleansing to prevent umbilical cord infections; and injectable antibiotics to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia.
Save the Children calls on world leaders to:
-- Strengthen health systems so mothers have greater access to skilled birth attendants. They can provide lifesaving interventions to all mothers and children, in addition to providing more funding for maternal, newborn and child health programs. More should be invested in frontline healthcare workers and community health workers to reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies.-- Fight the underlying causes of newborn mortality, especially gender inequality and malnutrition. Helping mothers become strong and stable - physically, financially and socially - makes their children stronger and more likely to survive and thrive.-- Invest in low-cost solutions that can dramatically reduce newborn mortality. Proper cord care and newborn/paediatric doses of antibiotics can prevent and treat simple but deadly infections. Exclusive breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact (known as "kangaroo mother care") should be encouraged. Such practices cost very little but can save hundreds of thousands of babies' lives each year. Additionally, birth attendants should be trained and given proper support and supplies.
To read the report click here: http://www.savethechildren.ca/document.doc?id=341
Notes to Editors
Other key findings of the annual report include:
-- This is the 14th year of the State of the World's Mothers report.-- The top 5 countries in the global mothers' ranking are: Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. The bottom five (in descending order) are: Niger, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and the DRC.-- Two thirds of all newborn deaths occur in just 10 countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Tanzania.-- With 98 per cent of all newborn deaths occurring in developing countries, a gap between the health of the world's rich and poor is persistent and widening.-- In many countries, the mortality gap between rich and poor has widened despite falling national rates.-- Newborn health funding doesn't match the need. While overseas development assistance for maternal and child health doubled between 2003 and 2008, only six per cent of the funding, in 2008, went to activities specifically focused on newborns and only 0.1 per cent targeted newborns exclusively.
About Save the Children
As the world's leading independent child rights organization, Save the Children's mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. We work to create a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Learn more about our work at www.savethechildren.ca.
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