India, Pakistan among five countries responsible for 50% newborn deaths: UN report

India and Pakistan are among the five countries — Nigeria, Congo and Ethiopia being the others — responsible for half of all new-born deaths in the world, according to a UN report.

The report, “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017”, revealed that 5.6 million children died before reaching the age of five in 2016.

However, this is a marked decrease compared to 2000 when nearly 9.9 million children had died before turning five.

Despite the progress, neonatal deaths — defined as deaths during the first 28 days of life — accounted for 46 per cent or 7,000 every day. Another 2.6 million babies were stillborn in 2016, the report said.

While India was accountable for 24 per cent of these new-born deaths, Pakistan accounted for 10 per cent, Nigeria 9 per cent, the Democratic Republic of Congo 4 per cent and 3 per cent of the deaths occurred in Ethiopia.

Pneumonia and diarrhoea caused 16 per cent and 8 per cent of deaths respectively among children under five globally. Thirty per cent of newborns succumbed to preterm birth complications and complications during labour or child birth last year.

“It is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7,000 newborns die daily,” Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group, said in a statement on Thursday.

“The lives of 50 million children under five have been saved since 2000, a testimony to the serious commitment by governments and development partners to tackle preventable child deaths,” said Stefan Swartling Peterson, Chief of Health at UNICEF.

“But unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. We have the knowledge and technologies that are required — we just need to take them where they are most needed,” Peterson said.

Going by the current trends, 60 million children would die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half of them newborns, said the report released by the UNICEF, World Health Organisation, World Bank and the Population Division of UNDESA.

By way of possible solutions, the report suggests improved access to skilled health-professionals during pregnancy and at the time of birth, lifesaving interventions, such as immunisation, breastfeeding and inexpensive medicines, and increasing access to water and sanitation, could aid in ending preventable child deaths.

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