A baby’s birth day is the most dangerous day of its life, according to the Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers report.
More than 1-million babies die every year on the day they are born, according to the first global analysis of newborn day-of-death data.
In addition to new findings on newborn survival, the report also features Save the Children’s Mother’s Index. This year it ranks Finland as the best place in the world to be a mother, and Democratic Republic of the Congo as the toughest.
The 2013 State of the World’s Mothers report focusses in on newborn health and the theme Surviving the First Day. A new Birth Day Risk Index ranks 186 countries by the chances a baby will die on the first day of life.
“It’s hard to imagine the depth of one mother’s pain in losing her baby the very day she gives birth; let alone a million times over,” says Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children.
“Yet, this report is full of hope. It shows there is a growing movement to save newborn lives and growing evidence that we can do it – saving up to 75% of them with no intensive care whatsoever.”
Since 1990, overall child mortality has dropped dramatically around the world, from 12-million annual deaths to less than 7-million. But the report shows that lack of global attention on newborns has translated into a much slower decline in newborn mortality. In sub-Saharan Africa, as many newborns die now as two decades ago.
Globally, a rising share of child deaths – 43% – now occur in the newborn period, or first month of life. The new report finds that more than a third of newborn deaths, or 15% of all child deaths, occur on the same day – the first.
The three leading causes of newborn death are prematurity, birth complications and severe infections. The poorest mothers are more likely to lose a newborn baby, the report finds.
The largest numbers of first-day deaths occur in India (more than 300 000 a year) and Nigeria (almost 90 000). The report identifies Somalia as the country with the highest first-day death rate (18 per 1 000 live births), while Luxemburg, Singapore and Sweden have among the lowest (less than 0,5 per 1 000).
A new Save the Children analysis shows that four underutilised products costing between 13 cents and $6 each could save 1-million newborns a year – many of them on the first day of life.
They are: resuscitation devices to help babies breathe; the antiseptic chlorhexidine to prevent umbilical cord infections; injectable antibiotics to treat infections; and antenatal steroid injections to help preterm babies’ lungs develop.
Other factors the report says will save more newborns are: early and exclusive breastfeeding; “kangaroo mother care” to keep preterm babies warm against their mothers’ skin; and skilled attendance at birth (40-million women a year now go without).
Addressing the global health worker crisis is key, as is investing in girls and women. Their improved nutrition and empowerment to attend school, delay marriage and plan and space births all lead to healthier mothers and babies.