First 24 Hours of Life Most Dangerous Time for Children in Developing...

First 24 Hours of Life Most Dangerous Time for Children in Developing World, Report Finds

Up to 2 Million Children Die Each Year during First Day of Life, According to Save the Children's State of the World's Mothers ReportSimple, Affordable Techniques Could Reduce Deaths by 70 Percent


Westport, CT–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – US Newswire)–May 9, 2006–For most children in the developing world, the most dangerous day of their lives is their birthday.

Of more than 10 million children under the age of 5 who die each year, about 1 in 5-an estimated 2 million babies-die within the first 24 hours of life, according to the seventh annual State of the World’s Mothers report issued today by Save the Children, a global independent humanitarian organization. According to the report, an additional 1 million babies die during days 2 through 7. A total of 4 million babies die during the first month of life.

“The first hours, days and weeks of a baby’s life are critical. Yet, only a tiny minority of babies in poor countries receive proper heath care during this highly vulnerable period,” said Save the Children President and CEO Charles MacCormack, in issuing the report. “The most simple health measures taken for granted in the United States can mean the difference between life and death for these babies. Low-cost interventions such as immunizing women against tetanus and providing a skilled attendant at birth could reduce newborn deaths by as much as 70 percent if provided universally.”

The report notes that most newborn deaths are the result of preventable or treatable causes such as infections, complications at birth and low birth weight.

“Newborn deaths are one of the world’s most neglected heath problems,” said MacCormack. “While there has been significant progress in reducing deaths among children under age 5 over the past decade, we have made little progress in reducing mortality rates for babies during the first month of life. In fact, newborn deaths are so common in many parts of the developing world that parents put off naming their babies until they are a week to 3 months old.”


The report found that 10 countries account for more than two-thirds of all newborn deaths worldwide, with the highest number of deaths taking place in India (more than 1 million) and China (416,000). However, because of their large populations, neither India nor China has the highest rate of newborn deaths.

Overall, the region of the world with the highest newborn death rates is sub-Saharan Africa where 1 out of 5 mothers has lost at least one baby in childbirth, the report said. The industrialized world, including the United States, accounts for only about 1 percent of all newborn deaths worldwide.

The Americas achieved a 40 percent reduction in the newborn mortality rate largely because of progress in Latin America, where six countries have achieved reductions of 50 percent or more. In the region, 1 in 35 women experiences the death of her newborn. The overall newborn mortality rate is 3 in 250 live births.

In evaluating the well-being of mothers and newborns in 53 low-income countries, Save the Children ranked Liberia and Afghanistan at the bottom, and placed Vietnam and Nicaragua at the top. Liberia’s newborn mortality rate (nearly 7 deaths per 100 births) is more than five times that of Vietnam (1 death per 100 births).

The report also evaluated 25 middle-income developing countries and placed Iraq at the bottom (6 deaths per 100 births) and Colombia at the top (1 death per 100 births).

Of 78 middle- and low-income countries, six Latin America nations-Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and Guatemala-are doing an admirable job of improving the health and saving the lives of mothers and babies, despite limited resources, ranking in the top 10. Nicaragua’s achievement is especially significant. Despite low per capita GDP, the country has implemented effective measures to improve newborn mortality rates. Indeed while Nicaragua still has room for improvement, it beats out 20 wealthier developing nations, including South Africa and Egypt.

Among 33 industrialized countries reviewed in the report, the United States ranked next to last, ahead of Latvia and tied with Hungary, Malta and Slovakia. The report said the U.S. newborn mortality rate is nearly three times higher than that of Finland, Iceland, Norway and Japan.

Going beyond the numbers, the report also offers dramatic accounts in developing countries of how communities are working together to reduce newborn deaths. For example, in Bolivia, new approaches that respect tradition while improving prevention of infection are being implemented. Where stones are traditionally used in lieu of knives to sever the umbilical cord (because using a blade would cause the child to become a thief), families now sterilize stones or pieces of a ceremonial clay pot to make the cut.


To achieve similar newborn survival successes in other developing countries, Save the Children’s report offers the following recommendations:

— Invest more to help girls and young women in poor countries have greater access to education, nutrition and modern contraceptives.

— Provide low-cost, low-tech solutions to mothers and babies that save lives during pregnancy, at birth and immediately after birth. These measures include tetanus immunizations, skilled attendant at childbirth, prompt treatment of newborn infections and education about proper hygiene, warmth and breastfeeding for infants.

— Expand the availability of good quality health care to mothers after childbirth.

The report calls on governments to increase their political and financial support for these proven solutions that save the lives of mothers and babies. The American public is asked to support increased international assistance for newborn, child and maternal heath that will help save lives

MacCormack noted that Save the Children is committed to helping save newborn lives worldwide. Through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, Save the Children has been working to prevent newborn illness and death among babies most at risk of dying in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Since the project’s start, more than 20 million mothers and babies have been reached with essential health services. Save the Children, through a new Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant received in December 2005, is focusing on ways to identify and promote the large-scale adoption in 18 countries of proven, low-cost tools and approaches that address the three main killers of 1-week-old babies- infections, lack of oxygen supply to a baby during delivery and at birth, and low birth weight.

In addition to its special focus on newborns and mothers, the report includes Save the Children’s seventh annual Mothers’ Index that identifies the best-and worst-countries to be mother and child through a comprehensive look at their well-being in 125 countries. For the seventh year in a row, Scandinavian countries dominate the top tier of the rankings with Sweden taking first place. The United States and United Kingdom tie for 10th place. Niger is in last place.

For more information on the State of the World’s Mothers 2006 report, go to

Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. Save the Children USA is a member of the International Save the Children Alliance, a global network of 27 independent Save the Children organizations working to ensure the well-being and protection of children in more than 110 countries. For more information, visit

First 24 Hours of Life Most Dangerous Time for Children in Developing World, Report Finds