Somalia among the riskiest places to be born: UNICEF


United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report released on Tuesday has named Somalia one of the riskiest places to be born. According to UNICEF, Somalia is in a four-way tie for the fourth most dangerous country to be a newborn.

1 in 26 babies from Somalia, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau and South Sudan die before celebrating their first birthday.

Somalia scored slightly better than Pakistan, Central African Republic and Afghanistan where babies face the worst odds of survival.

The report, entitled ‘Every Child Alive: The urgent need to end newborn deaths’ concluded that global deaths of newborn babies remain alarmingly high among the world’s poorest and most conflict-wracked countries.

“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.”

The report stated that almost half of all children under-five who died in 2016 were newborns.

More than 80 percent of the newborn deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth, or infections. These deaths can easily be prevented with access to healthcare professionals along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition.

However, as the report points out, while there are 218 doctors, nurses and midwives in Norway per 10,000 people, that ratio falls to one per 10,000 in Somalia.

Globally, the average newborn mortality rate in low-income countries is 27 deaths per 1,000 births. In high-income countries, that rate drops to 3 deaths per 1,000.

Newborns from the riskiest places to give birth are up to 50 times more likely to die in their first month than those from the safest places.

The report also notes that 8 of the 10 most dangerous places to be born are in sub-Saharan Africa, where pregnant women are much less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions.

However, Rwanda, a low-income country, has had tremendous success in caring for newborns. The East African country halved its newborn mortality rate in the last two decades, from 41 in 1990 to 17 in 2016.

Highest newborn mortality rates

1. Pakistan: 1 in 22
2. Central African Republic: 1 in 24
3. Afghanistan: 1 in 25
4. Somalia: 1 in 26
5. Lesotho: 1 in 26
6. Guinea-Bissau: 1 in 26
7. South Sudan: 1 in 26
8. Côte d’Ivoire: 1 in 27
9. Mali: 1 in 28
10. Chad: 1 in 28

Lowest newborn mortality rates
1. Japan: 1 in 1,111
2. Iceland: 1 in 1,000
3. Singapore: 1 in 909
4. Finland: 1 in 833
5. Estonia: 1 in 769
5. Slovenia: 1 in 769
7. Cyprus: 1 in 714
8. Belarus: 1 in 667
8. Luxembourg: 1 in 667
8. Norway: 1 in 667
8. Republic of Korea: 1 in 667

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

The numbers

7,000 – the number of newborn babies who die every day

5 – the number of newborn babies who die every minute across the world

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

2.6 million – the number of babies who do not survive through their first month.

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

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.


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