The Global ‘Post Code’ Lottery for Newborn Mortality

It is entirely a scourge on global society that there are lives being extinguished without being given a chance of survival beyond a month. Why should it matter where in the world a woman has her baby but that is the reality of our world because there is a huge discrepancy between countries in the way maternity care is crafted and dispensed. A pregnant woman in less developed countries, in general, has a reduced chance of celebrating the birth of her baby in the way that a woman in the Global North can, in the main, be assured of.

According to the report, ‘Surviving the First Day: State of the World’s Mothers 2013′ , by Save the Children nearly 3 million babies die within the first month of life. The 3 million deaths represent 43% of the world’s under-5’s deaths. Staggeringly, the future generations of many countries are being literally wiped out through deaths caused by preventable causes. In some cases, all it takes is simple measures such as using a basic antiseptic for cleansing the umbilical cord to prevent a deadly infection or using antenatal steroids to help premature babies breathe.

The indicators which are assessed for collating data that makes up the annual ‘Mother’s Index’ is a valuable source in itself to signpost policy makers, governments and healthcare agencies as to where investment needs to be made: women’s health, children’s health, educational attainment, economic well-being and female political participation. What stands out is the fact that an investment in mothers produces a consequent return through their children. This investment needs to take the form of money, equipment, awareness, skilled staff and compassion (the human cost of suffering and grieving is never factored into investment decisions).

Being Asian myself I am saddened that an estimated 423,000 babies die each year in South Asia on the day they are born. South Asia accounts for 24% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s first-day deaths. In India, specifically, 309,000 babies die each year on the day they are born. India also has more maternal deaths, 56,000, than any other country in the world. The Asian countries exhibit some of the largest economic inequalities intra-country. The report states that babies born to mothers living in the greatest poverty face the greatest challenges to survival. As an example, if all newborns in India experienced the same survival rates as newborns from the richest Indian families, nearly 360,000 more babies would survive each year.

While pregnant women in developed countries have expectations underpinned by advanced medical care systems of safe births, pregnant mothers in less developed and struggling countries live in fear of what lies at the end of their pregnancy. There is a huge chasm between the two situations that, frankly, should make people sit up and think.


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