Newborn Death Rates Decline Worldwide


Dr. Joy Lawn works tirelessly to ensure newborns get a healthy shot at life. In her travels with the Saving Newborn Lives Program at Save the Children, she comes across a multitude of stories like this one she recently wrote about for Healthy Newborn Network:

A woman goes into labour in rural Uganda. After a day in labour she is weakening and her husband brings her to the nearest facility although it has no running water or electricity. The midwife on duty recognises that the mother needs an emergency C-section, however, there is no doctor at this facility and the nearest referral hospital is a two-day drive away. The midwife takes action and finds a doctor who had observed a C-section as a medical student but had never performed one. He cuts the woman open from sternum to pelvis.

This particular story ends well. Both mother and baby survive thanks to a proactive midwife. Here’s the kicker: the woman is Dr. Lawn’s own mother, and the baby is Dr. Lawn. Dr. Lawn shared her personal experience to highlight the crucial need for more trained midwives and skilled health workers worldwide and particularly in Africa.

A study published today in the medical journal PLoS Medicine and coauthored by Dr. Lawn highlights, too, the vital need to focus on the health of newborns.

The study, conducted by researchers at the World Health Organization (WHO), Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine includes 20 years of data from all 193 WHO member countries and provides the most comprehensive set of estimates to date.

There is some good news. The authors found that neonatal deaths dropped from 4.6 million to 3.3 million between 1990 and 2009, but it’s still slow going. Prevention of newborn deaths lags behind progress on maternal mortality, and mortality of older children (ages 1 month to 5 years), Save the Children says. And, the study’s authors point out the share of newborn deaths will likely keep on growing.

More than half of the neonatal deaths in 2009 occurred in just 5 countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR). And despite the worldwide decrease over the 20 year period, neonatal mortality rates are up in 8 countries — 5 of which are in Africa.  Even here at home the news is not all good. The U.S. now ranks 41st on the list — dropping down from number 28, 20 years ago.

And in fact, each year more than 8 million children don’t live to see their 5th birthday. Most of these deaths occur in the developing world, and most are preventable with proper care, as Dr. Lawn pointed out.

“Newborns are barely on the global health agenda and this study lays out the tragic results of that neglect.  Each year 3.3 million babies still die in the first four weeks of life — despite the existence of proven, cost-effective interventions that could save these newborn lives,” Dr. Lawn said.

The study points to preterm delivery, asphyxia and severe infections as the three leading causes of newborn death. “We know that solutions as simple as keeping newborns warm, clean and properly breastfed can keep them alive, but many countries are in desperate need of more and better trained frontline health workers to teach these basic lifesaving practices,” Dr Lawn said.

“The global health worker crisis is the biggest factor in the deaths of mothers and children, and particularly the 3.3 million newborns dying needlessly each year. Training more midwives and more community health workers will allow many more lives to be saved.”

Take action! Save the Children is calling for more health workers to prevent these kind of deaths, and also letting Americans know that the best way they can support continued progress on saving lives is to ask Congress not to approve cuts to foreign aid. Sign the petition here.

Related Care2 Stories:

Exercising While Pregnant: Good For Babies’ Heart Health

Maternal Deaths Quadruple In South Africa

Where Are The Best — And Worst — Places To Be A Mother?


Photo credit: Brainsonic

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colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

Betsy M.
that is how this world works now.

when you run out of supplies, people will eat babies(or something)
we try to be masters of a world, to master, rule and jump beyond simple nature and the cruelty of such. and then something about caring capasity and the idea everyone should have the best, all the time.


you don't need that, or need that breeding. *sigh* some are hopeless causes, and the chance they will discover a cure for feline AIDs is slim.

Betsy M.
Betsy M.4 years ago

@ Phil W It is a good thing! If you don't know if any of your 10 kids will survive, you have 10. If you are pretty sure both of your children will make it to adulthood, you have 2.

Lilithe Magdalene

Good news! AND good birth control services would be a boon to people in these countries as well, so as not to be having so many babies to care for in the first place.

Phil w.
Phil w.4 years ago

you say declining death rate like its a good thing.

Anthony G.
A.G. Gelbert4 years ago

Continued from last post:
Articles like this one help the atomic liars club of nuclear power plant proponents defend the claim that nuclear power plants are not a threat to the humanity.

Anthony G.
A.G. Gelbert4 years ago

Ahem. Any statement about increased rate of survival worldwide about newborns up to 4 weeks MUST include data about stillbirths or spontaneous abortons in late term pregnancies. Infant mortality
Infant mortality is defined as the number of infant deaths (one year of age or younger) per 1000 live births. Traditionally, the most common cause worldwide was dehydration from diarrhea. However, the spreading information about Oral Re-hydration Solution (a mixture of salts, sugar, and water) to mothers around the world has decreased the rate of children dying from dehydration. Currently, the most common cause is pneumonia. Other causes of infant mortality include: malnutrition, malaria, congenital malformation, infection and SIDS.

Infanticide, child abuse, child abandonment, and neglect also contribute to a lesser extent.[citation needed] Related statistical categories:

Perinatal mortality only includes deaths between the foetal viability (22 weeks gestation) and the end of the 7th day after delivery.
Neonatal mortality only includes deaths in the first 28 days of life.
Postneonatal mortality only includes deaths after 28 days of life but before one year.
Child mortality includes deaths within the first five years after birth.

Finally, there has been a spike in infant mortality in the USA due to Fukushima radionuclide fallout. Articles that claim post birth care is improving the situation help the atomic liars club for nuclear poison make the bogus claim that nuclear p

John Doucette
John Doucette4 years ago

Except in the US where it was reported on NBC that the US infant mortality rate has gone from 29 worldwide to 47th.

June Rogers
June Rogers4 years ago

In Trinidad & Tobago the death rate is not under control. Please can we get help.

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti4 years ago

If this appears twice, its because I don't know what I'm doing on computer.

This is due to the upwising of babies, older children, and adults. Go, baby, go!!

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti4 years ago

It's part of the upwising of babies and older children and people. Go, baby, go.