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Kids' Health Issues: 2014

Battling Infant Mortality

5 Global Kids’ Health Issues

Huge progress has been made in many critical areas involving children’s health. Yet there is still important work to be done, and most of it doesn’t involve expensive new drugs or surgical procedures. Instead, it’s about the basics that most of us take for granted. We have identified 5 issues that desperately need the world’s attention for the sake of children and their families, and suggest some ways that you and your family can help.

Battling Infant Mortality

The joy of giving birth is usually accompanied by a sense of wonder while watching a tiny, fragile creature take those first breaths. Luckily, for most new mothers, skilled medical attendants are on hand to make sure that all goes well during and just after delivery.

The first 28 days of life — the “neonatal period” — are the riskiest in a child’s life:

  • Almost 3 million babies die within the first month of life each year; that’s 44% of all deaths in children younger than 5 years old.
  • About 50% of all newborn deaths are within 24 hours of birth; up to 75% occur in the first week of life.
  • Birth asphyxia (the inability to breathe immediately after delivery) claims 1 million babies every year.
  • More than half of these deaths are after a home birth without any health care.

Almost three million babies die within the first month of life

Almost all newborn deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (particularly Africa and South Asia), where nearly half of all mothers and newborns do not have medical care during and after birth.

Most of these babies would survive if their mothers had a skilled birth attendant, especially if delivering in a health care facility. After birth, a newborn must be breathing well and kept warm.

Millennium Development Goal 4 addresses child mortality: “Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-5 mortality rate.” The global under-5 mortality rate has dropped (from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 in 2012); however, deaths in the neonatal period increased from 37% to 44%.

Many of these deaths can be prevented through simple, affordable interventions that can be used in home births. Here are a few that could use your help:

  • Helping Babies Breathe: This group promotes skilled attendance at birth, assessment of newborns, temperature support, stimulation to breathe, and assisted ventilation as needed, all within “The Golden Minute” after birth. You can donate or even teach neonatal resuscitation.
  • Embrace: This social enterprise developed an innovative, low-cost infant warmer that stays at a constant temperature for up to 6 hours to maintain premature and low-birthweight babies’ body temperature. You can donate, volunteer, or spread the word.
  • Every Beat Matters: Save the Children’s newborn and child survival campaign works to make basic lifesaving health care available to children in the world’s poorest countries by training and supporting frontline health workers. You can donate, advocate, and spread the word.

Find out how to help kids worldwide in other important ways:

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2013