Every year, 2.6 million babies die before turning one month old, according to UNICEF in a new report Every Child Alive. One million of them take their first and last breaths on the day they are born, as another 2.6 million are stillborn.
That makes the number of newborn babies dying each year “alarmingly high” around the world, more so in developing countries.
The report ranks Nigeria the 11th highest on newborn deaths, with 29 deaths per 1,000 births of newborn. Eight of the 10 worst places to be born are also in sub-Saharan Africa.
Before the report, part a global campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborn, Nigeria’s own Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) found 37 out of every 1,000 newborns die.
UNICEF said the national average hides the difference between the 36 states and the slow progress in some of them.
“A fair chance in life begins with a strong, healthy start. Unfortunately, many children in Nigeria are still deprived of this,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Nigeria’s Representative.
“MICS data tells us that the trend is improving but urgent action needs to be taken for Nigeria to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. It cannot afford to fail its newborns today.”
Every year, 2.6 million newborns around the world do not survive their first month of life. One million of them die the day they are born.
World over, for every 1,000 births in low-income countries, 27 newborns die. In high-income countries, the rate is three deaths per 1,000.
“While we have more than halved the number of deaths among children under the age of five in the last quarter century, we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children less than one-month-old,” said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director.
“Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly, we are failing the world’s poorest babies.”
Every Child Alive notes that eight of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa, where pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions.
Eight in 10 newborn deaths are due to prematurity, deprivation of oxygen, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and infection.
These deaths can be prevented with access to well-trained midwives during antenatal and postnatal visits as well as delivery at a health facility, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact, proper cord care, and good nutrition.
However, a shortage of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don’t receive the life-saving support they need to survive.