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Newborn deaths reduce by 1.3 million in two decades but will take Africa 150 years to reach US/UK newborn survival levels – Study

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A new study conducted by three international bodies has shown that newborn deaths, that is deaths in the first four weeks of life (neonatal period), has reduced by 1.3 million in two decades.

Figures in the study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, show that, newborn deaths decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009, but fell slightly faster since 2000.

The first week of life is considered as the riskiest week for newborns but yet many countries are only just beginning postnatal care programmes to reach mothers and babies at this critical time.

The study covering 20 years on all 193 WHO member states, indicates that newborn deaths currently account for 41% of all child deaths before the age of five. The share grew from 37% in 1990, and is likely to increase further with preterm delivery, asphyxia and severe infections, such as sepsis and pneumonia been the causes of these deaths.

A joint statement from the three bodies published on WHO’s website said fewer newborns are dying worldwide, but progress is too slow and Africa particularly is being left further behind.

“With a reduction of 1% per year, Africa has seen the slowest progress of any region in the world. Among the 15 countries with more than 39 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births, 12 were from the WHO African Region (Angola, Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone).”

“At the current rate of progress it would take the African continent more than 150 years to reach U.S. or U.K. newborn survival levels,” it said.

The statement notes that more investment into health care for women and children in the last decade when the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set, “contributed to more rapid progress for the survival of mothers (2.3% per year) and children under the age of five (2.1% per year) than for newborns (1.7% per year).”

By Ekow Quandzie

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