One million babies are dying every year on their first day of life

One million newborns die one their first – and only – day of life.

In 2012, 6.6 million children died before their fifth birthday. But perhaps even more surprisingly, 2.9 million of those babies lived less than one month. And according to Save the Children’s new report “Ending Newborn Deaths,” one million of those babies died on their first – and only – day of life.

The worst part? The majority of those one million first day deaths could have been prevented through interventions like access to care and a skilled midwife. In fact, 40 million women give birth each year with no help from a midwife or any other health worker, often simply because there are none in the surrounding area.

Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Somalia are particularly affected by a lack of health workers; each of these countries has less than two doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 people. South Sudan is another dangerous country to give birth in. Data on access to midwives is not accessible, but here about 36 of every 1,000 babies die in infancy – one of the worst rates in the world.

The BBC’s George Alagiah talks to Monica, a midwife in South Sudan, who is clearly heartbroken by the loss of life she sees regularly.

More needs to be done to save the lives of newborns. Although the number of children who die every year before the age of five has almost halved since 1990 – from 12.6 million to 6.6 million – newborn mortality rates have not improved at that same pace.

To reach Millennium Development Goal 4 (reducing child deaths and to actually end preventable child deaths by 2035), efforts to reduce newborn mortality must be redoubled and actual newborn death rates need to drop much faster.

To help guide this effort, governments and institutions around the world have developed a draft plan called, “Every Newborn: an action plan to end preventable death ” (ENAP) with an end goal of reducing newborn mortality and disability as well as maternal mortality. Five guiding principles form the basis of ENAP:

- Country leadership: countries must take the lead in providing effective and high-quality reproductive, maternal, and newborn health services.
- Integration: it’s important to ensure newborn health in particular is included in initiatives to promote maternal and child health and that all of these initiatives and programs coordinate to be most effective.
- Equity: there needs to be a focus on reaching the most vulnerable and poorest populations, as they are usually the most underserved.
- Accountability: more transparency and oversight are necessary to ensure equitable coverage, quality of care, and effective use of resources.
- Innovation: there needs to be innovative solutions for reaching the most underserved and poorest populations, and it’s crucial to understand with interventions and strategies are most effective.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and its partners are accepting comments on this action plan through Friday, February 28.

Find out more and to submit your own thoughts and comments on the plan.