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Riskiest Day Of A Baby’s Life Is The First Day, Says Save The Children
May 7, 2013
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A premature baby at a hospital in Haiti

Every year, more than one million babies in the world die on the day they are born, according to a new report by Save The Children.

However, the organization says many of those deaths could be prevented.

The report, entitled 'Surviving The First Day', identifies three major causes of newborn deaths - birth complications, premature birth and infections. And it says there are relatively inexpensive ways to reduce the risk to newborn babies.

The key, the report says, is universal access to several recommended products:

• Steroid injections for women in preterm labour (to help premature babies with breathing problems survive)

• Resuscitation devices (to save babies who aren't breathing at birth)

• An antiseptic called Chlorhexidine, which is used to clean the umbilical cord to prevent infections

• Antibiotics that can be injected in a newborn to treat sepsis and pneumonia

Save The Children says those products cost between 13 cents and $6 each and could save the lives of a million babies a year.

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Afghan mothers and toddlers wait for food rations

Over the past 40 years, the world has made great strides to prevent child mortality - reducing it by more than 50 per cent, even as the global population doubled.

But the report says a growing share of those deaths - 43 per cent - is happening in the first month of life. That's three million babies every year who die before they're a month old.

Most newborn deaths (98 per cent) happen in the developing world - which reinforces a growing gap between the health of the world's rich and poor, the report says.

The 14 countries with the highest first-day death rates are in Africa - with Somalia, Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone and Central African Republic making up the top five.

"Health care for mothers in sub-Saharan Africa is woefully insufficient. On average, only half the women in the region receive skilled care during birth," the report says.

"A mother in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is 30 times more likely than a mother in an industrialized country to lose a newborn baby at some point in her life."

On average, one in six African mothers is likely to lose a newborn baby and one in 30 will die from pregnancy-related causes - in large part because of poverty and a lack of nutrition, with10-20% of mothers underweight.

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Somali mothers wait in line to have their babies examined

Things are especially bad in Somalia, where many women don't get any care during pregnancy or labour. And if they do, after they deliver, there often isn't an incubator available if their baby is premature or sick.

18 out of every 1,000 babies in Somalia die the day they are born. Five per cent of newborns die within a month and one in six won't live to the age of five.

"What's worse, Somalia has seen absolutely no improvement in newborn or child survival in at least two decades," the report says.

By contrast, only about one per cent of first-day deaths happen in wealthy, industrialized countries. Of those, the United States has by far the highest rate with 11,300 babies dying on the day they're born each year.

In fact, the report says some U.S. counties have first-day death rates similar to those in developing countries. The U.S. also has the highest teen birth rate of any industrialized country, and teen mothers tend to be poorer, less educated and receive less pre-natal care.

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A premature baby is fed by a nurse at a hospital in Louisiana

As part of the report, Save The Children looked at the best countries in the world in which to be a mother - based on the health of women and children, education, income and female participation in politics.

Of the 176 countries ranked, Finland was 1st, Sweden 2nd, Norway 3rd, with Canada ranked 22nd and the United States 30th.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was ranked last - considered the world's toughest place to raise children. The next worst countries were in Africa as well - Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Niger, Central African Republic, The Gambia, Nigeria, Chad and Ivory Coast.

Here are some other key findings of the report:

• Mothers and babies die in greater numbers in South Asia than in any other region

• It's estimated 423,000 babies in South Asia die on the day they are born each year

• South Asia, which accounts for 24% of the world's population, recorded 40% of the world's newborn deaths

• The most first-day deaths happen in India (more than 300,000 each year). That accounts for 29% of all newborn deaths worldwide

• India also has more maternal deaths than in any other country with 56,000 per year

• Finland is the best place to be a mother; the risk of death through pregnancy is just one in 12,200

• Luxembourg, Singapore and Sweden have the lowest newborn death rate (less than 0.5 per 1,000 live births)

via Arab News

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