100,000 newborn lives saved since 2018

Target is to save 500,000 newborn lives by 2021

Feature page image
UN0139579_Roger LeMoyne
14 January 2020

South Asia is making progress in saving the lives of newborn babies. Since 2018, an additional 100,000 newborn lives have been saved in South Asia. This is because of progress made in expanding access to, quality and utilization of newborn health services.

Despite this positive progress, however, the region is not on track to achieve the UNICEF Regional Office of South Asia headline result of saving 500,000 additional newborn lives by 2021. If progress continues at the same pace, 250,000 will be saved – not 500,000. The region is also not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal newborn target. The current annual rate of reduction of newborn deaths averages at 3.6% per year. Acceleration to 6.6% is required to achieve the SDG targets.

In 2020 and 2021, UNICEF ROSA will be working to accelerate progress for newborns taking a four-pronged approach:

  1. Scale – tackling health system bottlenecks for at-scale implementation of the interventions that save newborn lives
  2. Quality – supporting continuous quality improvement for key interventions at the primary healthcare level
  3. Information – strengthening health information systems
  4. Investment – advocating for increased public investment for maternal and neonatal health
Picture of Polio immunization


South Asia is the last region in the world where wild poliovirus is circulating. The number of children paralyzed by polio is going in the wrong direction – 125 children were paralyzed by polio in 2019.

Despite this disappointing trend, there are strong reasons to remain optimistic that polio will soon be stopped in both Afghanistan and Pakistan – and therefore eradicated from the world. UNICEF’s detailed support to provide polio vaccines and to engage closely with communities about polio will continue.

In 2020 and 2021, UNICEF will support substantial expansion of an integrated package of basic services in the districts and regions most at risk of polio.

Picture of DPT3 immunization
UNI95143_Giacomo Pirozzi


The number of Fully Immunized Child is improving in South Asia – but not at the rate that we would like. 87 per cent of children in South Asia now receive the basic set of vaccines (known as DTP3). This is higher than the global average of 85 per cent. However, this means that 13 per cent of children remain unvaccinated.

In 2020 and 2021, UNICEF South Asia will focus its support on finding and vaccinating the children missed by immunization services – particularly those who are receiving no immunizations at all.