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Best and Worst Countries for Babies on Their First Day of Life

One million babies die each year on the day they are born, according to a new study released by the international nonprofit Save the Children. In their annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report, the organization examines global newborn day-of-death data, and ranks 186 countries based on where babies have the best shot at surviving their first day of life.

A baby born today in Somalia (at the bottom of the list) is 43 times more likely to die on her first day than a baby born in Luxembourg (at the top of the list). The U.S. ranked 68th on the list with 11,300 babies dying the day they were born in 2011.

Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles in India in 2013.

The report points out that overall mortality rates for children 5 and under have dropped dramatically since 1990, from 12 million to less than 7 million deaths a year. But newborn health hasn’t received the attention it deserves, according to Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles. “In the developing world, a baby’s first day is the most dangerous day of life,” Miles said. “When you look at childhood survival, we’ve made tremendous progress. But if we want to get to zero preventable deaths, we have to address the newborn piece.”

Miles spoke with the NewsHour after returning from a recent trip to India, where more than 300,000 babies die on their birth day — the most of any country in the world.

“I met a mother in one of Delhi’s largest slums who had recently given birth to her fourth child, a little girl,” Miles said. “She gave birth in her tiny home with a traditional birth attendant who didn’t know what to do when the baby wasn’t breathing. They tried rubbing and slapping her, but she died an hour after birth. If the mother had gotten to the hospital, that baby would have lived because they had basic resuscitation devices.”

A baby in Nepal after application of CHX to her umbilical stump. Photo courtesy of Save the Children.

In fact, the report highlights four low-cost medical products, including resuscitation devices, which Save the Children says could save one million newborns a year.

The other tools include antenatal steroid injections to delay preterm labor, antiseptic chlorhexidine (CHX) to prevent umbilical cord infections, and injectable antibiotics to treat infections.

The report also ranks the best and worst countries to be a mother based on five indicators: education, income, women’s political representation and the chances a mother and her baby will survive.

Save the Children is enlisting the help of several celebrity moms, including Jennifer Garner and Jennifer Connelly, to raise awareness and financial support for newborns and their mothers around the world. They recently released this YouTube video titled “First Moments.”

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