India Records Highest Newborn Deaths In World

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NEW DELHI – First the good news: India has recorded a 33% drop in newborn deaths between 1990 and 2009. Now, the bad news. Despite the sharp drop, over 9 lakh newborns died in 2009, the highest in the world.

The most comprehensive newborn death estimates so far – covering all 193 countries and spanning 20 years released by the World Health Organization, Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on Tuesday – says newborns account for 41% of all child deaths.

India’s neonatal mortality rate (NMR) in 1990 (deaths per 1,000 live births) was 49. In absolute numbers, the nation recorded 13.49 neonatal deaths. In 2009, the neonatal mortality rate stood at 34, which worked out to 9.07 lakhs.

Only five countries account for more than half of the world’s 3.3 million newborn deaths – India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dr Joy Lawn of Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives programme said, “Newborns are barely on the global health agenda and this study reveals the tragic results of that neglect. Each year 3.3 million babies still die in the first four weeks of life, despite proven, cost-effective interventions that could save these newborns.

The study found that newborn deaths dropped from 4.6 million to 3.3 million between 1990 and 2009.

But while the newborn mortality rate dropped 28% during that period, it lagged progress on maternal mortality (34% reduction) and mortality of older children (37% reduction for children between 1 month and 5 years).