One in every 36 babies dies in Ethiopia according to a UNICEF report comparing newborn mortality in different countries. Pakistan and the Central African Republic are the worst performers.
“While we have more than halved the number of deaths among children under the age of five in the last quarter century, we have not made similar progress in ending deaths among children less than one month old. The majority of these deaths are preventable so clearly we are failing the world’s poorest babies, “said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director.
Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa with a total population of 94 million, out of which 13 million are under five years of age. Despite making overall progress in child survival, deaths among newborn babies still remains high.
At 29 deaths per 1,000 live births, newborn mortality accounts for 44 per cent of all under five deaths. The new report indicates that in 2016 alone, 90,000 newborn babies died in Ethiopia, ranking the country among 10 high burden countries globally.
In recognition of the need to accelerate newborn survival, the Ethiopian government has put newborn survival at the centre of the Health Sector Development Plan.
It has developed the Newborn and Child Survival Strategy (2015-2020) to strengthen the capacity of the health system and the skills of health workers to deliver quality health care to every mother and newborn baby. This includes the provision of quality antenatal care, skilled delivery, essential newborn care, postnatal care and neonatal intensive care for sick neonates.
Globally, in low-income countries, the average newborn mortality rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births, the report says. 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.
More than 80 per cent of newborn deaths are due to prematurity, complications during birth or infections such as pneumonia and sepsis, the report says. 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.
However, a shortage of well-trained health workers and midwives means that thousands don’t receive the life-saving support they need to survive. For example, while in Norway there are 218 doctors, nurses and midwives to serve 10,000 people, that ratio is 1 per 10,000 in Somalia.