NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Report Says Many Newborns Could Be Saved

September 21, 2001

Millions of deaths of infants in developing countries could be prevented if governments and international agencies promoted cheap and simple measures to protect babies in the very early stages of life, according to a new report.

The report, "State of the World's Newborns," argues that high death rates could be reduced by such practices as exclusively using breast feeding, keeping babies warm, and ensuring that there are skilled attendants at the birth.

By combining these with other measures, such as ensuring that delivery environments are hygienic and that mothers receive basic health care and advice, thousands of unnecessary deaths could be prevented, it claims.

The report has been produced by a new charity based in the United Kingdom called Women and Children First, in association with the U.K. Institute of Child Health and the U.S. charity Save the Children. According to the report:

  • The "alarmingly high" number of infant deaths in developing countries is mainly due to infections, complications during birth, premature birth and birth defects.
  • Around four million babies a year are stillborn, and a further four million die before they are a month old.
  • And the risk of losing a baby in the first few weeks of life is 30 times higher for a mother in west Africa than a mother in western Europe or North America.

Most mothers give birth without ever coming into contact with a skilled health worker, say researchers. And since births are not registered in many countries, policy makers do not realize how high the death toll really is.

Source: Pat Hagan, "Simple measures could save "millions" of newborns," British Medical Journal, September 22, 2001.


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