Maternal, newborn and child health

Each year, more than a million newborn deaths occur in South Asia. UNICEF is working hard to prevent such tragedies – with communities, governments and partners.

Mothers with their newborns
UNICEF ROSA/2017/Brown


Any child’s death is a tragedy. In South Asia, more than 60 per cent of deaths amongst children aged under five years occur in very first month of life. South Asia is not on-track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of reducing these newborn deaths to no more than 12 per 1000 live births by 2030. Children born to uneducated mothers in poor or rural families are the most vulnerable and face the highest mortality risk. .

70 per cent of newborn deaths are preventable with simple and inexpensive interventions. Preventing newborn deaths requires cooperation at all levels of society – from families and communities to health care workers and governments. 

It is imperative that all countries in the region make a concerted effort to reduce newborn deaths. To ensure effective action, there is a need to improve the availability and quality of health data in South Asia, with a particular focus on newborn and adolescent health data. UNICEF supports countries in South Asia to develop child health action plans, which focus on improving the quality of care given to newborns and their mothers around the time of birth. 


UNICEF’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health programme focuses on ensuring expecting mothers have the support to deliver their newborns with professional care in a safe environment. Our target for South Asia is to reduce newborn deaths to 20.6 per 1000 live births by 2021. Meeting this target will save over 500,000 lives. 

As social and behavioural changes are essential to create a safe environment for pregnant women and their newborns, UNICEF works with regional partners to address gender discriminatory practices in the communities we work with. Throughout South Asia, we provide trainings to share the latest developments in servicing mothers and their children. 

UNICEF promotes policies in the region that support pregnant mothers and improves newborn delivery practices. We track progress on child health action plans in each country. Our analysis allows us to learn, share and reflect on the various programmes we have undertaken in the region, assess how they impact maternal, newborn and child health. This ensures we introduce timely and relevant changes and updates.


These resources represent just a small selection of materials produced by UNICEF and its partners in the region. The list is regularly updated to include the latest information.