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Groups Vow to Address Staggering Infant Mortality in Developing Countries


Every year, four million newborns die in their first month of life. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest infant mortality rate of any region of the world. Now there is a new push to save Africa's newborns as well as the newborns in other developing regions.

The most dangerous period in an African baby's life is the day he is born. This grim observation came at a conference in Washington from Anne Tinker with Save the Children.

"Up to 50 percent of all newborn deaths are on the first day of life. That's 500,000 African babies dying on their birthday. Seventy-five percent of newborn deaths are in the first week."

Another million African babies do not live long enough to take their first breath [are stillborn]. Last year, Save the Children joined forces with other organizations, scientists and doctors to find out why these babies die and how to prevent their deaths.

The result is the most comprehensive study ever on infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. The findings are hopeful: more than two-thirds could be saved with low-cost interventions that even the poorest of countries can put in place.

Suggestions include tetanus shots for pregnant women, teaching women to keep their babies warm and snug against their chests and breast-feeding shortly after birth.

The lifesaving techniques in this study can also be applied to infants elsewhere, such as China and India, countries with high newborn death rates.

The African study is the first of a number of regional studies on infant mortality. It was financed by the United States Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization and donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Some video courtesy of Save the Children

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