UNICEF re­port

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

Anew UNICEF re­port on new­born mor­tal­ity says that very year 2.6 mil­lion ba­bies die be­fore turn­ing one month old. One mil­lion of them take their first and last breaths on the day they are born. Al­though, the num­ber of deaths among chil­dren un­der the age of five in the last quar­ter cen­tury has been halved, the world has not made sim­i­lar progress in end­ing deaths among chil­dren less than one month old. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, ba­bies born in Ja­pan, Ice­land and Sin­ga­pore have the best chance of sur­vival, while new­borns in Pak­istan, the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic and Afghanistan face the worst odds. Glob­ally, in low-in­come coun­tries, the av­er­age new­born mor­tal­ity rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births. In high-in­come coun­tries, that rate is 3 deaths per 1,000. New­borns from the riski­est places to give birth are up to 50 times more likely to die than those from the safest places.

The coun­tries with the low­est new­born mor­tal­ity rates, af­ter Ja­pan, are mostly well-off coun­tries with strong ed­u­ca­tion and health care sys­tems: Ice­land (a one in 1,000 chance of death), Sin­ga­pore (one in 909), Fin­land (one in 833), Es­to­nia and Slove­nia (both one in 769), Cyprus (one in 714) and Be­larus, Lux­em­bourg, Nor­way and South Korea (all with risks of one in 667). More than 80 per cent of new­born deaths are due to pre­ma­tu­rity, com­pli­ca­tions dur­ing birth or in­fec­tions such as pneu­mo­nia and sep­sis. Th­ese deaths can be pre­vented with ac­cess to well-trained mid­wives, along with proven so­lu­tions like clean wa­ter, dis­in­fec­tants, breast­feed­ing within the first hour, skin-to-skin con­tact and good nu­tri­tion.

Pak­istan fares poorly in the UNICEF re­port. It de­clares Pak­istan as the riski­est coun­try for new­borns, say­ing that out of ev­ery 1,000 ba­bies born in Pak­istan, 46 die be­fore the end of their first month. Preg­nant women are much less likely to re­ceive as­sis­tance dur­ing de­liv­ery in Pak­istan, where 14 skilled health pro­fes­sion­als are avail­able for ev­ery 10,000 peo­ple. The re­port points out that the per­cent­age of moth­ers who give birth in a health fa­cil­ity in Pak­istan in­creased from 21 per­cent to 48 per­cent be­tween 2001 and 2013. It also noted the pro­por­tion of women giv­ing birth with a skilled at­ten­dant dur­ing the same pe­riod more than dou­bled from 23 per­cent to 55 per­cent. In UNICEF's opin­ion, de­spite th­ese re­mark­able in­creases, largely the re­sult of rapid ur­ban­iza­tion and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of pri­vate sec­tor providers not sub­ject to sat­is­fac­tory over­sight, Pak­istan's very high new­born mor­tal­ity rate fell by less than one quar­ter, from 60 in 2000 to 46 in 2016.

Civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions have long called for in­creas­ing the health bud­get in Pak­istan, which spends less than one per­cent of its GDP on health ser­vices, as op­posed to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion bench­mark of at least six per­cent of the GDP to en­sure ba­sic and life sav­ing ser­vices. Af­ter Pak­istan, the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic and war-shat­tered Afghanistan are the next most dan­ger­ous coun­tries for new­borns. Poverty, con­flict and weak in­sti­tu­tions in th­ese coun­tries are cited as pri­mary rea­sons for the alarm­ing num­ber of new­born deaths.

UNICEF is now launch­ing Ev­ery Child ALIVE, a global cam­paign to de­mand and de­liver so­lu­tions on be­half of the world's new­borns. Mil­lions of th­ese young lives could be saved ev­ery year if ev­ery mother and ev­ery baby had ac­cess to af­ford­able, qual­ity health care, good nu­tri­tion and clean wa­ter. The re­port ad­dresses the chal­lenges of keep­ing ev­ery child alive, and calls for strong co­op­er­a­tion among govern­ments, busi­nesses, health-care providers, com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies to give ev­ery new­born a fair chance to sur­vive, and to col­lec­tively work towards the achieve­ment of uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age, and a world where no new­born dies of a pre­ventable cause.

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