Ten developing countries account for more than two-thirds of the four million newborn deaths every year. "Only one percent of newborn deaths occur in industrialized countries," says Ann Tinker, spokeswoman for the non-profit group Save the Children. "So the rate of newborn deaths is much higher in all the developing countries. And, where we really need to provide support is to the developing countries particularly in Asia and Africa."
Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali ranked at the bottom of the list. Tinker says women and girls in those countries have little access to healthcare and education. "In Mali, for example, only five percent of the child bearing age women are using modern contraception." And, she says, "Only a few limited number of women in Mali have any access to a health service. One in five will lose a newborn during her lifetime."
The report also rates the overall status of women in 125 countries according to health and education factors
Along with the four million newborn deaths each year, 500,000 of the mothers also die from treatable and preventable causes. The reports says that the use of antibiotics to fight infections, contraceptives to delay early or too closely spaced children, and skilled midwives to attend births could significantly reduce infant and mother mortality. Tinker says simple low-cost solutions can make a huge difference. "In Bolivia during the cold months - even a hat and a blanket will save a baby from hypothermia. Or a bar of soap in Nepal for the midwife to wash her hands before she delivers the baby."
The Save the Children report recommends that all countries invest more in education for girls, and calls for a greater commitment and more assistance from wealthier nations to support solutions known to save lives.
Save the Children also included those wealthier nations in its global ranking of infant mortality rates. Japan led 32 other industrialized countries with the lowest number of newborn deaths. According to the report, the United States -- which does not have universal free health care for pregnant women -- was tied for next-to-last with 7 infants in every thousand not surviving their first year. Only Latvia had a higher rate of infant deaths.