16 PER CENT OF INFANTS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD, 29 PER CENT IN SOUTH ASIA, HAVE LOW BIRTHWEIGHT
Percentage of infants weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth, by region
World Fit for Children goal: Reduce the rate of low birthweight by at least one third
Some 60 per cent of newborns in the developing world are not weighed, and a lack of comparable data makes assessing progress difficult. But the incidence of low birthweight seems to have remained roughly constant since around 2000.
About 16 per cent of infants in developing countries (more than 19 million) are born weighing less than 2,500 grams; they are 20 times more likely to die in infancy than heavier babies. Those who survive may be more susceptible to infectious diseases and inhibited growth and cognitive development. They are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses in later life.
In developing countries, low birthweight often stems from the mother’s poor health and nutritional status before and during pregnancy. Key interventions to prevent it include improved food intake for pregnant women, micronutrient supplementation, prevention and treatment of such infections as malaria, reduction of teenage pregnancy, and maternal education.
6 OUT OF 10 NEWBORNS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD ARE NOT WEIGHED
The high proportion of unweighed newborns biases available
Percentage of infants not weighed at birth, by region (1999–2006)
Nearly three quarters of births are not weighed in South Asia, the region with the highest rates of low birthweight. This means that most available data on birthweight are not epresentative of the general population; most represent populations who are better off and whose babies are born in health facilities, in urban areas and to educated mothers. In estimating birthweight, UNICEF and WHO have adjusted household survey data for underreporting and misreporting. These adjusted rates are more accurate but may still underestimate the true magnitude of the problem.
MORE THAN 19 MILLION INFANTS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD HAVE LOW BIRTHWEIGHT
More than half are in South Asia; 8.3 million are in India
Number of infants weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth, by region