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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 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.

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