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Babies born in poorest countries still face ‘alarming’ risks: UNICEF

Washington, United States | AFP | Babies born in the world’s poorest countries, most of them in Africa, still face “alarming” risks of death that can be 50 times as high as those in the richest countries, according to a UNICEF report released Tuesday.

While the last quarter-century has seen broad improvements in older children’s health, “we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children less than one month old,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director.

“Given that the majority of these deaths are preventable, clearly we are failing the world’s poorest babies.”

The differences are stark. A baby born in Pakistan — the country with the worst newborn mortality rate — faced a one in 22 chance of death, while a newborn in Japan had only a one in 1,111 risk of dying, the report said.

Of the 10 highest-risk countries, eight are in sub-Saharan Africa, countries where “pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance,” due to poverty, conflict or weak institutions, according to the report.

Those eight countries are the Central African Republic (a one in 24 chance of death); Somalia, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau and South Sudan (all with a one in 26 chance); Cote d’Ivoire (one in 27) and Mali and Chad (both with a one in 28 chance).

Each year, some 2.6 million babies do not survive through their first month.

– Preventable deaths –

The report was released in conjunction with the launch of a global campaign, called Every Child Alive, aimed at ensuring “affordable, quality health care solutions for every mother and newborn.”

More than 80 percent of newborn deaths can be prevented, the report says, “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.”

But shortages of properly trained health workers and midwives are a major problem in poorer nations.

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