The Progress of Nations

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 The time to sow
  
 Data briefs: Progress and disparity
     

Weighing in for better child health

A baby’s weight at birth is a good indicator of both the mother’s health status and the infant’s chances of survival and development. Infants who weigh less than 2.5 kg at birth face high immediate and long-term risks. But this key indicator is not well monitored as many of the 116 million children born each year in developing countries are not weighed at birth. Over 20 million – more than one in every five children – are low-birthweight babies.

Low birthweight (less than 2.5 kg, about 5.5 pounds) is a major factor in the deaths each year of 4 million infants before the age of one month and in illnesses affecting millions more. Evidence is mounting that low birthweight leads to a 50% greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer later in life.

Data from 34 countries show that in 16 of them (see list), more than half of infants are not weighed at birth. In Chad, Egypt, Haiti, Niger and Pakistan, 80% or more of newborns are not weighed.

Nearly half of all births in developing countries are not attended by doctors, nurses or midwives. Traditional birth attendants, who assist deliveries in the absence of trained health personnel in their communities, can play useful roles by encouraging weight gain during pregnancy and weighing the babies they deliver.

The unweighed

% of infants not weighed at birth
Chad 89
Pakistan 88
Egypt 84
Haiti 82
Niger 80
Rwanda 74
Nigeria 73
Uganda 73
Mali 69
Madagascar 64
Comoros 55
Mozambique 55
Togo 55
Kenya 54
Zambia 53
Senegal 51

Sources: DHS (1990-1999) and additional analysis.
 
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