November 22nd, 2006 07:28 EST
1.16 million Newborns in sub-Saharan Africa die each year UN report
Each year at least 1.16 million newborns die in sub-Saharan Africa within the first 28 days of life, making the region the world`s most dangerous to be born in, yet more than two thirds of these infants could be saved with low cost, low tech action, according to a United Nations-backed report released today.
It would cost an additional $1.39 per capita per year to provide 90 per cent of women and babies in sub-Saharan Africa with all the essential heath packages, " according to the study, Opportunities for Africa`s newborns, produced by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH). Its proposals include immunizing women against tetanus, providing skilled attendants at birth and treating newborn infections promptly.
Amid the grim statistics there is some good news: six low-income countries " Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania, have made significant progress in reducing these deaths.
Good news does come out of Africa, " said Joy Lawn, co-editor of the report, who works in Africa for Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children-US, one of the partners in PMNCH, which includes the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 80 other organizations and foundations in developing and donor countries.
Whilst the survival of the African child has shown almost no improvement since the 1980s, the fact that during 2006 several large African countries have reported a dramatic reduction in the risk of child deaths gives us new hope of more rapid progress to save Africa`s children, " she added.
Up to half a million African babies die on the day they are born, most at home and uncounted. Liberia has the world`s highest newborn mortality rate at 66 deaths per 1,000 births compared to less than 2 deaths per 1,000 births in Japan and 6 deaths per 1,000 births in Latvia.
Half of Africa`s 1.16 million newborn deaths occur in just five countries " Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda. Nigeria alone has over 255,000 newborn deaths each year.
On any given day in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report, 3,100 newborns die, another 2,400 are stillborn, 9,600 others die after their first month and before their fifth birthday, and 700 women succumb to pregnancy-related causes.
The report`s other low-cost life-saving recommendations include educating mothers about hygiene, warmth and breastfeeding, delaying the first pregnancy until after 18, spacing pregnancies at least 24 months apart, and treating malaria during pregnancy and HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases especially among adolescent girls.
Saving these lives would take only an estimated $1.39 per capita " or $1 billion per year, " WHO said in a news release. This cost would benefit others, in particular the 1 million stillborns and 250,000 mothers who also die each year. "
The report called on African countries to produce a plan of action and mobilize internal resources, and on international donors to leverage resources to meet the additional needs identified by these countries.
The health of newborn babies has fallen between the cracks " Africa`s un-named, and uncounted, lost children, " PMNCH Director Francisco Songane said. We must count newborn deaths and make them count, instead of accepting these deaths as inevitable.
The progress of these six African countries demonstrates that even the world`s poorest countries can look after their newborns, their most vulnerable citizens. They have shown the way " we must seize the opportunity, " he added.