Every day 67,385 babies are born in India, that’s one sixth of the world’s child births. Every minute one of these newborns dies.
The day of birth is the riskiest day for both the mother and the newborn as nearly 40 per cent of newborn deaths and half of maternal deaths occur on the day of birth. Measures to ensure that every woman delivers in a health facility, assisted by a skilled birth attendant, are key to preventing these deaths as nearly five million newborns are delivered at home in India every year.
Concerted efforts have seen neonatal deaths, occurring within in the first 28 days of life, reduce significantly from one third of the global deaths to below a quarter of global newborn deaths.
Increases in the number of women delivering in a health facility, from six out of ten to eight of ten, has contributed in one million fewer newborn deaths and 10,000 fewer maternal deaths every month. Pre-maturity (39.5 per cent), neonatal infections (17 per cent), birth asphyxia (31 per cent) and congenital malformations (4 per cent) are among the major causes of new-born deaths. Ensuring access to quality care and delivery in a health facility has been key because nearly 46 per cent of all maternal deaths and 40 percent of neonatal deaths happen during labour or the first 24 hours after birth.
India has shown significant progress in the reduction of child mortality and the focus now needs to be on newborns and reaching the most marginalized children, with special focus on the girl child. The gains in reducing neonatal deaths have not been as significant as those in reducing under-five deaths. India contributes to nearly one sixth of the global burden of under five deaths and around a quarter of the global burden of neonatal deaths.
India is the only large country in the world where more girl babies die than boy babies. The gender differential in child survival is currently 11 per cent. This discrimination begins even before birth with an adverse sex ratio for the female child, meaning more boys are born than girls, and continues across all stages of a child’s life. Statistics reflect community attitudes with fewer hospital admissions for girls than boys, showing that parents sometimes give less attention to girl newborns. In 2017 alone 150,000 fewer girls were admitted to SNCUs than boys.
Most newborns die from things that we know how to prevent or treat: complications due to prematurity or during labour and birth, and infections like sepsis, pneumonia, tetanus and diarrhoea.