Nigeria, DR Congo, 3 others accounted for half of all global newborn deaths

A new report from UNICEF and its partners in the Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2017, shows that Nigeria,  the Democratic Republic of the Congo India, Pakistan, and Ethiopia accounted for half of all newborn deaths. The largest number of newborn deaths occurred in Southern Asia (39 percent), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (38 percent).

Every year, millions of children under 5 years of age die, mostly from preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. In almost half of the cases, malnutrition plays a role, while unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene are also significant contributing factors.

Based on current trends, 30 million newborns would die between 2017 and 2030. Eighty percent of these deaths would occur in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. About one in six of these deaths (5 million) could be averted if
countries at risk of missing the SDG target with low rates of progress and high neonatal mortality rates accelerate progress.

Prematurity, complications during labour and birth, and infections like sepsis, pneumonia, tetanus and diarrhoea are among the leading causes – all of which can be treated or prevented with simple, affordable solutions.

In 2016 alone, 7,000 newborn babies died every day. Newborn deaths made up 46 percent of all child deaths, an increase from 41 percent in 2000.

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Nigeria, India and four other countries accounted for half (52 percent) of all deaths between age 5–14. Other countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, China and the Niger.


Over the past 25 years, the world has made significant progress in saving young children’s lives. The rate of child mortality fell 62 percent from 1990–2016, with under-five deaths dropping from 12.7 million to 5.6 million.

The data reveal that the rate of newborn deaths is not decreasing as quickly as that of children aged one to five. As a result, newborns account for a growing proportion of child deaths with each passing year.

The burden of under-five deaths remains unevenly distributed. About 80 percent of under-five deaths occur in two regions, subSaharan Africa and Southern Asia. Six countries account for half of the global under-five deaths, namely, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and China. India and Nigeria alone account for almost a third (32 percent) of the global under-five

The burden of neonatal deaths is also unevenly distributed across regions and countries. Globally, 46 percent of under-five deaths occur during the neonatal period. Lower under-five mortality is associated with a higher concentration of under-five deaths occurring during the neonatal period.

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Accelerating progress to achieve the SDG target on neonatal mortality would save the lives of 5 million newborns from 2017 to 2030 in the 60+ countries that will miss the target for neonatal mortality by 2030 if current trends continue.

Many countries will lag even further behind in achieving the SDG target on neonatal mortality than on under-five mortality if current trends continue.

But these children are also dying because of who they are and the environment they were born into – whether it be an impoverished family, a marginalized community or a country consumed by conflict.

Of all society’s injustices, this is perhaps the greatest: Children in the poorest households are nearly twice as likely to die before the age of five than those from the richest. These deaths are also concentrated geographically, the majority taking place in just two regions: southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The good news is that ending preventable newborn and child deaths is possible – within our lifetime. With a concerted, coordinated effort among policymakers, businesses, healthcare workers, communities and families, we can work together to provide affordable, quality healthcare for every mother and child.

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