ISLAMABAD - A million newborns die within 24 hours in the world every year, of which 200,000 in Pakistan, charity Save the Children said in a report out Tuesday which urged governments to tackle preventable deaths.
The eye-opening investigative report was launched by Pakistan chapter of ‘Save the Children’ during a ceremony held on the premises of a local hotel in Islamabad.
The report claims that Pakistan held highest rate/ratio of stillbirths globally, and stressed the government to take steps on war-footing to bring down child mortality rate.
“More than 200,000 children in Pakistan die each year during childbirth or on its first day of life which is the highest rate globally,” the report read.
The report named ‘Ending Newborn Deaths’ reveals that nearly 1-in-25 babies die during childbirth or on the day of birth.
Participants of the ceremony – doctors, journalists and government authorities – were all shocked to learn about the lack of basic health facilities to majority of Pakistani mothers, resulting in death of hundreds of thousands of children across Pakistan.
According to the report, one half of first day deaths and stillbirths around the world could be prevented if the mothers and babies had free healthcare facilities and skilled midwife services.
The report reveals that the situation in Pakistan seems to have gone from bad to worse where more than 200,000 children are dying each year as more than half of all women give birth without a skilled birth attendant present.
“The first moments of a child’s life are the most dangerous, yet too many mothers give birth without any skilled help,” said Ghulam Qadri, Deputy Country Director for Save the Children in Pakistan.
“It’s criminal that many of these 200,000 deaths annually in Pakistan can be averted simply by having someone around to make sure the birth takes place safely and knows what to do in crisis.”
The report which has raised many eyebrows worldwide, declared Pakistan one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a mother or baby, where approximately 70,000 babies die on the day of birth. The government has begun deploying health community midwives to improve skilled birth attendance in rural areas, but only 45 percent of those have been properly trained, said Dr Qudsia Uzma while sharing key findings of the report.
“The root problem is the lack of skilled health workers with the right equipment and medical supplies to support mothers, especially in the most rural and remote areas where they are needed the most. Coverage of skilled midwives is nearly five times higher among the richest women compared with the poorest,” said Dr Qudsia Uzma.
In a bid to save millions of newborn lives, Save the Children has urged the world leaders to commit in 2014 to a blueprint for change – The five-point newborn promise which focuses on training and equipping enough skilled health workers to make sure that no baby is born without proper help, and removing fees for all pregnancy and birth services.
In his concluding remarks, Save the Children’s Director Advocacy and Child Rights Governance Arshad Mahmood stressed upon the need to highlight the importance of ending newborn deaths.
“Save the Children’s Everyone campaign will focus on newborns during 2014 and ahead. We will engage with the provincial governments to make sure that more LHWs and CMWs are deployed,” Arshad Mahmood said.
Salient features of The five-point newborn promise include issuance of a defining and accountable declaration to end all preventable newborn mortality, saving 2 million newborn lives a year and stopping the 1.2 million stillbirths during labour. The newborn promise also aims at ensuring that by 2025 every birth is attended by trained and equipped health worker who can deliver essential newborn health interventions. This can only be achieved if the government of Pakistan increases the number of frontline health workers, including CMWs and vaccinators, operating in all four provinces and Fata.
The new promise also stresses upon increasing expenditure on health to at least US$60 per person, WHO’s minimum level.
It further stresses that to pay for the training, equipping and support of health workers, the governments should remove user fees for all maternal, newborn and child health services, including emergency obstetric care.
AFP adds: The report by the British-based organisation said 6.6 million children around the world died in 2012 before their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable causes. (The figure includes children who die during birth or on the first day).
The number has almost halved from the 12.6 million in 1990, but there remains a “deplorable problem of lack of attention to babies in their first days of life”, the aid organisation said.
Every day, 18,000 children under five die, and most from preventable causes,” the report said.
Pakistan had the highest rate of first day deaths and stillbirths at 40.7 per 1,000 births, followed by Nigeria (32.7), Sierra Leone (30.8), Somalia (29.7), Guinea-Bissau (29.4) and Afghanistan (29.0).
India had the highest number of first day deaths and stillbirths at 598,038 per year - a quarter of the 2.2 million lives lost.
The under-five mortality rate in India has been more than halved since 1990, from 126 per 1,000 live births to 56.1.
“(Indian) states with strong health systems and implementation mechanisms have done exceedingly well compared with others,” the report said.