About 60 million children will die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half of them newborns, UN agencies warned on Thursday in a report, adding that India leads the countries with the highest number of newborn deaths.

“Every day in 2016, 15,000 children died before their fifth birthday, 46 percent of them or 7,000 babies died in the first 28 days of life – an increase from 41 percent in 2000,” said Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017, a report jointly prepared by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Population Division of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The report recorded that 39 percent of these deaths took place in South Asia and 38 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

India accounted for 24 percent of newborn deaths followed by 10 percent in Pakistan, the report said.

In Africa, nine percent of these deaths took place in Nigeria while the Democratic Republic of the Congo accounted for four percent and Ethiopia three percent.

Out of every 36 children born in sub-Saharan Africa, one child dies, according to the report.

“In the world’s high-income countries, the ratio is 1 in 333,” the report added.

The UN said that if all countries achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016. (Reuters)

Focus on marginalised families 

Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health at WHO said that the marginalised families must be served “to achieve universal health coverage and ensure more newborns survive and thrive, we must serve marginalised families.”

“To prevent illness, families require financial power, their voices to be heard and access to quality care. Improving quality of services and timely care during and after childbirth must be prioritised,” he said.

“It is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7,000 newborns die daily,” said Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank.

The report said that 24 percent of under-five deaths were caused by pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Preterm birth complications and complications during labour or child birth killed 30 percent of newborn deaths last year, the report said.

10 million children could be saved from dying

The UN report said that if every country achieves the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on child survival by 2030, some 10 million lives of under five children will be saved during this period.

The study reveals that the number of children dying before under five is at a new low – 5.6 million in 2016 compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000 – but one UN official said, “Unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete.”

“We have the knowledge and technologies that are required, we just need to take them where they are most needed,” said UNICEF Chief of Health Stefan Swartling Peterson.

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