- Nearly 7400 new-borns die every day in the WHO South-East Asia Region
- A quarter of the world population lives in the 11 countries of the Region
- Two-thirds of these deaths can be prevented by cost-effective measures
- Focused efforts should be made to increase the health workforce
- WHO stressed on training midwives, mobilizing sufficient funding, and addressing inequities in health care interventions
Nearly 7400 new-borns die every day in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) South-East Asia Region causing untold misery to mothers and families. The region has 11 member countries: India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste.
Two-thirds of these deaths can be prevented by adopting proven and cost-effective measures, the WHO said seeking focused efforts by governments and partners to prevent newborn deaths with a sense of urgency.
“Scaling up interventions with good quality care around the time of childbirth and during the first days after birth can substantially prevent complications and infections in new-borns, which are the main causes of newborn deaths,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region, said here as health partners signed a pledge to reduce newborn deaths.
Led by WHO; the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), World Bank, The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), and UNWOMEN pledged to jointly support the countries in the Region to prioritize accelerated reduction in newborn deaths by ensuring equitable access to essential life-saving interventions for mothers and babies across the Region.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said each preventable death should be accounted for. Countries should review maternal and newborn deaths to improve health services to prevent such deaths in future.
Focused efforts should be made to increase the health workforce – doctors, nurses and specially midwives – which remains critically low in many countries of the Region, below the WHO recommended 23 per 10 000 population.
Training midwives, mobilizing sufficient and sustainable funding, and addressing inequities in health care interventions by reaching the unreached populations are among the other key interventions needed to reduce newborn deaths.
The health partners also pledged to address underlying factors like health, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, and to empower women. They also emphasized the importance of investing more in early childhood development and adolescent health to ensure good quality of life, health and well-being of newborns through a cross-sector collaboration approach.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said that the Region made significant progress in reducing deaths among children under the age of five years, as part of efforts under the Millennium Development Goals. The under five deaths dropped by 64% from 118/1000 live births in 1990 to 43/1000 live births in 2015. However, the reduction in newborn deaths was slower in comparison, at 55% during the same period – from 53/1000 live births in 1990 to 34/1000 live births in 2015.
Newborn deaths account for more than 50% of under five deaths in the Region, and remain a major factor for South-East Asia not achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing under-five deaths by two-thirds.
The Region accounts for 30% of global newborn deaths with Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal as the high-burden countries. Prioritizing newborn death reduction, WHO has setup a Technical Advisory Group comprising of 12 eminent global and regional experts, to support countries in the Region.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said under the new Sustainable Development Goals, one of the targets is to reduce newborn mortality to 12 per 1000 live births by 2030. This is an opportunity to take more strident actions that would help end preventable newborn, child and maternal deaths.