NEW YORK – Japan is the safest country in the world for newborns, according to a study released at UNICEF on Tuesday by a leading medical journal that also underlines the high infant mortality rates in some of the globe’s least-developed countries.
In contrast to Japan and Singapore, which had 1.1 and 1.2 neonatal deaths per thousand live births in 2012, Sierra Leone and Somalia were ranked first and second in terms of risk for newborns, with 49.5 and 45.7 deaths per thousand live births during the same period, according to the study.
The report, titled “Every Newborn,” a series of papers released by The Lancet, shows how many deaths could be prevented if proper care around the time of birth was provided.
“The countries with the highest burden in Africa and South Asia are not safe in many respects, and we are highlighting that they are not safe even for the newborn,” said Kim Eva Dickson, UNICEF’s senior adviser of maternal and newborn health, during a press conference at the agency’s New York headquarters.
As a co-author, Dickson worked with academics and experts from around the world to help present a picture of the current situation regarding infant mortality.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, 2.9 million babies die annually within their first 28 days and an additional 2.6 million babies are stillborn.
Newborn deaths account for 44 percent of total mortality among children under 5 and represent a larger proportion of under-5 deaths than in 1990.
According to Dickson, “simple interventions,” such as drying the baby when it is born, wrapping it and cleaning the umbilical cord can save an infant’s life within the first 24 hours, which is considered the most dangerous time for both mother and child.
“We are not talking about high technology here, we are talking about simple things that we could do,” Dickson said.