Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

To Save More Newborns, Focus on the Poor, Report Says

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

To Save More Newborns, Focus on the Poor, Report Says

Article excerpt

Over the last two decades, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has decreased dramatically around the globe - falling from 12 million annually in 1990 to 7 million today. But one group remains particularly at risk: newborns born to poor families.

In the world's poorest countries - as well as some of its richest - income is an increasingly large factor in how risky a baby's first days of life are, according to a report released today by Save the Children, an international nongovernmental organization.

"There's a real need to create [public health] strategies focused on equity in access to care," says Sara Stulac, deputy chief medical officer for the NGO Partners in Health, and a pediatrician. "We actually know a number of low cost ways to decrease infant mortality - the challege is implementation."

In an analysis of 50 developing countries, Save the Children found that babies born to parents in the poorest fifth of the population died 40 percent more often than those in the richest fifth.

And in some countries, the gap is even more dramatic.

In Bolivia, for instance, babies born to poor mothers die three times as often as those born to rich mothers. In India, which has the highest number of newborn deaths annually in the world (876,000), a poor baby is twice as likely to die in infancy as a rich one.

"No longer is the question really one of rich countries and poor countries," says Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles. "Now it's about reaching the poor kids wherever they are."

In many ways, the yawning gap in healthcare access for mothers and babies is a classic story of how globalization has cleaved the world along new lines. As medical technology has spread rapidly around the world, the well-off in even the poorest of countries now visit hospitals, seek advice from trained medical professionals, and have access to medicine and nutrition that dramatically reduce health risks for their children.

At the same time, however, millions of women in rural, remote, and impoverished areas of those same countries continue to give birth at home and never come into contact with the medical system. …

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