Nearly 10 per cent of new-born deaths in the world last year occurred in Nigeria, a new report by the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has revealed.
According to the report, five countries accounted for half of all new-born deaths last year, with Nigeria third in the list. These are India (24 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 per cent) and Ethiopia (3 per cent). Most new-born deaths occurred in two regions: Southern Asia (39 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent).
The report showed that 15,000 children died globally before their fifth birthday in 2016, with 46 per cent of the deaths (7.000) occurring in the first 28 days of life.
The World Health Organisation issued a press statement on Thursday on the new study titled: Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017.
The study reveals that although the number of children dying before the age of five is at a new low – 5.6 million in 2016 compared to nearly 9.9 million in 2000 – the proportion of under-five deaths in the new-born period has increased from 41 per cent to 46 per cent during the same period.
The UNICEF Chief of Health, Stefan Peterson, said though the lives of 50 million children under-five have been saved since 2000 through increased level of commitment by governments and development partners to tackle preventable child deaths, more still needs to be done to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth.
“We have the knowledge and technologies that are required – we just need to take them where they are most needed.”
According to the report released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the Population Division of UNDESA, which make up the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), at current trends, 60 million children, will die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half of them new-borns.
The Nigerian Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, had earlier this year described the high mortality rate of under-five in the country as unacceptable.
He said the government has however made significant progress in reducing the rate of new-born deaths in the country as it has declined from 201/1000 live births to 128/1000 live births in 2013.
Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of child bearing age, making the country the second largest contributor to under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.
The latest report notes that many lives can be saved if global inequities are reduced.
If all countries achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 per cent of under-five deaths could have been averted and almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016.
Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group said it is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7,000 new-borns die daily.
“The best measure of success for Universal Health Coverage is that every mother should not only be able to access health care easily, but that it should be quality, affordable care that will ensure a healthy and productive life for her children and family.
“We are committed to scaling up our financing to support country demand in this area, including through innovative mechanisms like the Global Financing Facility (GFF)”, he said.
Pneumonia and diarrhoea top the list of infectious diseases which claim the lives of millions of children under-five globally, accounting for 16 per cent and eight per cent of deaths, respectively.
Preterm birth complications and complications during labour or child birth were the causes of 30 per cent of new-born deaths in 2016. In addition to the 5.6 million under-5 deaths, 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year, the majority of which could be prevented.
Ending preventable child deaths can be achieved by improving access to skilled health-professionals during pregnancy and at the time of birth; lifesaving interventions, such as immunisation, breastfeeding and inexpensive medicines; and increasing access to water and sanitation, that are currently beyond the reach of the world’s poorest communities.