NEW YORK, 16 September 2014 – Child survival rates have increased dramatically since 1990, during which time the absolute number of under-five deaths has been slashed in half from 12.7 million to 6.3 million, according to a report released today by UNICEF.
The 2014 Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed progress report, indicates that the first 28 days of a newborn’s life are the most vulnerable with almost 2.8 million babies dying each year during this period. One million of them don’t even live to see their second day of life.
Many of these deaths could be easily prevented with simple, cost-effective interventions before, during and immediately after birth.
Analysis points to failures in the health system during the critical time around delivery as a significant contributing factor to these unnecessary deaths. It also shows that there is considerable variation – from country to country and between rich and poor – in the take-up and quality of health services available to pregnant women and their babies.
Key findings in this study include:
- Around half of all women do not receive the recommended minimum of four antenatal care visits during their pregnancy.
- Complications during labour and delivery are responsible for around one quarter of all neonatal deaths worldwide. In 2012, 1 in 3 babies (approximately 44 million) entered the world without adequate medical support.
- Evidence shows that initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth reduces the risk of neonatal death by 44 per cent, yet less than half of all newborns worldwide receive the benefits of immediate breastfeeding.
- Quality of care is grossly lacking even for mothers and babies who have contact with the health system. A UNICEF analysis of 10 high mortality countries indicates that less than 10 percent of babies delivered by a skilled birth attendant went on to receive the seven required post-natal interventions, including early initiation of breastfeeding.
- Similarly, less than 10 per cent of mothers who saw a health worker during pregnancy received a core set of eight prenatal interventions.
- Those countries with some of the highest number of neonatal deaths also have a low coverage of postnatal care for mothers. Ethiopia (84,000 deaths; 7 per cent coverage); Bangladesh (77,000; 27 per cent); Nigeria (262,000; 38 per cent); Kenya (40,000; 42 per cent).
- Babies born to mothers under the age of 20 and over the age of 40 have higher mortality rates.
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