According to a UNICEF report published this year,  Bhutan is ranked 60th among 184 countries in neonatal mortality rate.

This means in Bhutan one in every 55 children dies during the first 28 days after birth. In other words, there are 18.1 deaths per 1,000 live births during the first 28 days.

In the lower middle income category, Bhutan is ranked 25th, ahead of Bangladesh, Tajikistan, and Bolivia.

The report states that the risk of newborn death varies enormously depending on where a baby is born. “Babies born in Japan stand the best chance of surviving, with just 1 in 1,000 dying during the first 28 days,” it states. “Children born in Pakistan face the worst odds: Of every 1,000 babies born, 46 die before the end of their first month – almost 1 in 20.”

Japan, Iceland, Singapore, and Finland have the lowest neonatal mortality rate. Pakistan, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, and Somalia have the highest.

Of the 10 countries with the highest newborn mortality rates, eight are in sub-Saharan Africa where pregnant women are less likely to receive assistance during delivery due to poverty, conflict and weak institutions, and two are in South Asia.

In Asia, Singapore, Republic of Korea, Malaysia,  the Maldives, and China follow Japan with the lowest newborn mortality rate, while Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh follows Pakistan with the highest newborn mortality rate.

The report states that an estimated 7,000 newborn babies die every day in the world, of which more than 80 percent are due to causes that could have been prevented with basic solutions such as affordable, quality health care delivered by well-trained doctors, nurses and midwives, antenatal and postnatal nutrition for mother and baby, and clean water.

“What is required are the places, people, products and power to provide universal health coverage and hold policy makers and providers accountable for the quality of services,” it states.

UNICEF is launching Every Child Alive, a global campaign to demand and deliver solutions on behalf of the world’s newborns this month. Through the campaign, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, donors, the private sector, families and businesses to keep every child alive by recruiting, training, retaining and managing sufficient numbers of doctors, nurses and midwives with expertise in maternal and newborn care; and guaranteeing clean, functional health facilities equipped with water, soap and electricity, within the reach of every mother and baby. The stakeholders also need to make it a priority to provide every mother and baby with the life-saving drugs and equipment needed for a healthy start in life; and empower adolescent girls, mothers and families to demand and receive quality care.

The report states that in low-income countries, the average newborn mortality rate is 27 deaths per 1,000 births. The rate is three deaths per 1,000 in high-income countries.

Karma Cheki