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The world is 'failing' its newborn babies — UNICEF

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The world is 'failing' its newborn babies — UNICEF

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Global deaths of newborn babies remain alarmingly high, particularly among the world's poorest countries.

UNICEF has issued a hard-hitting report about infant mortality.

Where are the best and worst places in the world for newborns?

Babies born in Japan, Iceland and Singapore have the best chance at survival. Newborns in Pakistan, the Central African Republic and Afghanistan face the worst odds.

The report also says eight out of the 10 most dangerous places places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa. Pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutional framework.

How did Europe do?

Europe accounted for eight of the top 10 countries in terms of lowest mortality rates, with Iceland coming out on top in the region, followed by Norway and Luxembourg.

No countries in the region were in the bottom 10 overall.

Within Europe, Azerbaijan came out last, with a newborn mortality rate of one in 55, followed by Moldova with a rate of one in 84.

The numbers

27 deaths per 1,000 births - the average newborn mortality rate in low-income countries.

3 deaths per 1,000 - the average newborn mortality rate in high-income countries.

50 - how many more times newborns from risky places are likely to die than those from the safest place

16 million - the number of lives that could be saved if every country brought its newborn mortality rate down to the high-income average by 2030

“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.”

What are the causes of infant mortality?

More than 80% of newborn deaths are due to premature birth, complications during birth or infections like pneumonia and sepsis, according to the report.

These deaths can be prevented with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition.

Shortages of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don't receive the life-saving support they need, UNICEF says. For example, in Norway, there are 218 doctors, nurses and midwives to serve 10,000 people. In Somalia, the ratio is one per 10,000.