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May 07, 2013

Report: 3 Million Newborns Die Within First Month

by Joe DeCapua

The humanitarian organization Save the Children has released its annual State of the World’s Mothers report. It says despite much progress being made in reducing maternal and child deaths, every year, three million babies die within the first month of life. Many just live a few hours.


Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles said there’s a widespread and mistaken belief that little can be done to save newborn lives in developing countries. As a result, many babies die.

Save the Children's annual report says many newborn lives can be saved with simple and inexpensive solutions. (Credit:STC)
​​“This year’s report we really focused in on newborns. And we found that a baby’s birthday is actually the most dangerous day of their life. More than one million babies are dying the actual day that they’re born.”

There are several reasons why they’re so at risk that first day.

“It’s when they can die of very preventable things. So babies are dying of infection. They’re dying of complications at premature birth and they’re dying of very simple things like not breathing at birth,” she said.

Fact Box Save The Children's Mother Index
​​Miles said one region of the world stands out as being the worst for newborns.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is the place where this is the biggest issue. And if you look at the index that we put together, the bottom 10 in that index are all sub-Saharan African countries. From a percentage standpoint that’s where the most babies are dying.”

Forty percent of first day newborn deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Of the 176 countries that are ranked in the Mothers Index, DRC is at the very bottom. Rounding out the bottom 10 are Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Niger, Central African Republic, Gambia, Nigeria, Chad and Ivory Coast.
Top 10 countries for newborn deaths in 2013.
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Miles said, “I think the issue in sub-Saharan Africa is really getting the care that these newborns need to the places where they’re being born. So, a lot of times the health system ends at a district level and there may not be a health post that’s accessible to these women. So, one of the solutions here is getting more frontline health workers out into these communities to help mothers when they’re giving birth.”
The Save the Children report says there are four simple interventions that could turn things around – each one costing between 13-cents and six dollars. First, steroid injections can be used for women in pre-term labor to reduce premature newborn deaths from breathing problems. Resuscitation devices can save babies who do not breathe at all at birth, while injectable antibiotics can treat newborns for sepsis and pneumonia.

The final recommendation prevents umbilical cord infections.

“We’re looking at the use of a very simple antibiotic called chlorhexidine, which is put on the umbilical cord after the baby is born. And in Nigeria, the tradition is to use mud or cow dung or something like that on the umbilical cord and that obviously can have really dire consequences for babies,” she said.

Miles also cited a tradition in Nepal, which can put babies at risk. Women there, she said, may be encouraged to give birth in the barn with the animals.

While the recommendations are simple and cheap, they’re often not implemented in developing countries. The report blames that, in part, on a lack of political will by government leaders.

The State of the World’s Mothers report lists Finland as the top country for mothers and newborns. It’s followed by Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Australia. The top 10 are credited with high levels of support and respect for women.

As for the United States, Miles said, “The U.S. comes in 30 in the index this year. So that is not terrific, I would say. Thirtieth is not where I think most American women and mothers think they would end up. The disparity in the United States I think is what really drives the differences. So it is very much tracked to poverty.”

In fact, the United States leads industrialized countries in first day deaths for newborns, followed by Canada and Switzerland.

As for the major emerging economies – the so-called BRICS nations – the 2013 Mother’s Index ranks Brazil 78th and Russia 59th.  India is in the 142nd position, while China is 68th and South Africa 78th. 

Country Rank:

Finland 1
Turkey 60
Swaziland 119
Sweden 2
Romania 61
Bhutan 120
Norway 3
Mauritius 62
Lao People's Democratic Republic 121
Iceland 4
Oman 63
Nepal 121
Netherlands 5
Trinidad and Tobago 64
Angola 123
Denmark 6
Kazakhstan 65
Morocco 124
Spain 7
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 65
Tajikistan 124
Belgium 8
Bahamas 67
Senegal 126
Germany 9
China 68
Vanuatu 127
Australia 10
Lebanon 68
Guatemala 128
Austria 11
Malaysia 70
Sao Tome and Principe 129
Switzerland 12
Ecuador 71
Cambodia 130
Portugal 13
Saint Lucia 72
Lesotho 131
Slovenia 14
Peru 73
Uganda 132
Singapore 15
Algeria 74
Micronesia (Federated States of) 133
France 16
El Salvador 74
Solomon Islands 133
Italy 17
Ukraine 74
United Republic of Tanzania 135
New Zealand 17
South Africa 77
Bangladesh 136
Greece 19
Brazil 78
Burundi 137
Ireland 20
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 79
Mozambique 138
Estonia 21
Thailand 80
Pakistan 139
Canada 22
Albania 81
Equatorial Guinea 140
United Kingdom 23
Cape Verde 81
Ethiopia 141
Czech Republic 24
Colombia 83
India 142
Israel 25
Republic of Moldova 84
Sudan 143
Belarus 26
Iran (Islamic Republic of) 85
Malawi 144
Lithuania 26
Maldives 86
Afghanistan 145
Poland 28
Vietnam 86
Ghana 146
Luxembourg 29
Belize 88
Eritrea 147
United States 30
Nicaragua 89
South Sudan 147
Japan 31
Sri Lanka 89
Zimbabwe 147
Republic of Korea 31
Mongolia 91
Togo 150
Cuba 33
Dominican Republic 92
Madagascar 151
Croatia 34
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 93
Myanmar 152
Slovakia 35
Georgia 94
Cameroon 153
Argentina 36
Armenia 95
Mauritania 154
Serbia 36
Jamaica 96
Djibouti 155
Latvia 38
Panama 96
Kenya 156
Cyprus 39
Azerbaijan 98
Congo 157
Macedonia 40
Turkmenistan 99
Papua New Guinea 158
Costa Rica 41
Suriname 100
Zambia 159
Montenegro 42
Namibia 101
Benin 160
Bulgaria 43
Tonga 102
Burkina Faso 161
Bahrain 44
Jordan 103
Yemen 162
Malta 45
Kyrgyzstan 104
Comoros 163
Saudi Arabia 46
Uzbekistan 105
Haiti 164
Bosnia and Herzegovina 47
Indonesia 106
Guinea-Bissau 165
Barbados 48
Philippines 106
Liberia 166
Mexico 49
Gabon 108
Côte d'Ivoire 167
United Arab Emirates 50
Guyana 109
Chad 168
Chile 51
Timor-Leste 110
Nigeria 169
Grenada 52
Honduras 111
Gambia 170
Hungary 52
Syrian Arab Republic 112
Central African Republic 171
Uruguay 54
Iraq 113
Niger 172
Kuwait 55
Paraguay 114
Mali 173
Tunisia 56
Samoa 115 Sierra Leone 174
Libya 57
Botswana 116
Somalia 175
Qatar 58
Rwanda 117
Democratic Republic of the Congo 176
Russian Federation 59
Egypt 118