A report published Tuesday by UNICEF found that every year, 1 million newborn babies do not live past their first day. The report also found that 2.6 million babies die before they have lived even a month.
More often than not, newborn mortality is greatly determined by where the baby was born. Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF's executive director, said Tuesday that "babies born to the poorest families are more than 40 percent more likely to die in the newborn period than babies in the richest families."
The shame is that most of these deaths are preventable, UNICEF explains. More than 80 percent of the deaths are tied to premature births, "complications during labor and delivery," and inadequate health care to treat said complications. In other words, they are circumstantial deaths, rather than medical issues that doctors could not address.
High-income countries average just three deaths for every 1,000 births, whereas low-income countries report 27 fatalities for every 1,000 births. But economic prosperity is not the only determinant of newborn mortality: UNICEF points out that the U.S. and Kuwait, two wealthy countries, each report four newborn deaths for every 1,000 births, a rate that is comparatively outperformed by "lower-middle income" countries like Sri Lanka and Rwanda, which report five deaths per 1,000 births.
The lesson, UNICEF contends, is that "[investing] in strong health-care systems that prioritize newborns … can make a major difference, even where resources are constrained." Rwanda in particular — a poor country that has recently halved its newborn mortality rate — should "offer hope and lessons for other countries committed to keeping every child alive," the report says.
Read the full report here.