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Greater efforts needed to cut newborn deaths

Wednesday August 31st, 2011

The rate of deaths of new-born babies around the world has fallen, but more must be done, the World Health Organisation warned yesterday.

It urged more efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goal 4 - to reduce child deaths by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.

Neonatal deaths, before 28 days old, have received less attention than deaths among under-fives, write Dr Flavia Bustreo and colleagues from the World Health Organisation in PLoS Medicine.

Dr Bustreo said yesterday: "With four years to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, more attention and action for newborns is critical."

The team looked at neonatal death rates for 1990 to 2009 in 193 countries. They report that reliable figures were available for 38 countries, and the others were estimated using a statistical model.

In 1990, an estimated 4.6 million babies died in the first month of life. This had dropped to 3.3 million by 2009. Over half of all the deaths in 2009 occurred in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Between the two time points, the neonatal death rate fell by 28 per cent from 33.2 deaths per 1,000 live births to 23.9. But the proportion of child deaths that occur in the neonatal period increased from 37 per cent to 41 per cent.

The authors write: "Neonatal mortality has declined in all world regions. Progress has been slowest in the regions with high neonatal mortality rates."

They explain that investment in women and children's health care in the last decade, since the United Nations Millennium Development Goals were set, has contributed more to the survival of mothers and children than to newborns.

Three-quarters of neonatal deaths are due to premature delivery, asphyxia (oxygen deprivation), or severe infections such as sepsis and pneumonia.

Co-author Dr Joy Lawn, of Save the Children, said: "Millions of babies should not be dying when there are proven, cost-effective interventions to prevent the leading causes of newborn death."

Oestergaard, M. Z. et al. Neonatal Mortality Levels for 193 Countries in 2009 with Trends since 1990: A Systematic Analysis of Progress, Projections, and Priorities. PLoS Medicine, published online August 30, 2011.

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Nursing & Midwifery | Orthopaedics | Women’s Health & Gynaecology | World Health

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