South Asia remains a tough place for moms and newborns with nearly 40 percent of all newborn deaths reported in the region, according to a global survey of the best and worst countries to be a mom.
The study, by British charity Save the Children, found that 1.2 million newborn deaths occurred in the sub-continent, according to the ‘State of the World’s Mothers’ survey.
Despite its impressive economic growth, India accounts for an overwhelming majority of those deaths (876,200) whilst Bangladesh and Pakistan also have very large numbers of first-day deaths – 28,000 and 60,000 respectively.
India is ranked 140th out of 179 countries, a drop of three places from its ranking in 2014.
Pakistan ranked 149th, Afghanistan 152nd, Bangladesh 130th, Nepal 114th place whilst the two highest-ranked South Asian nations are the Maldives and Sri Lanka at joint 92nd place.
The global mother’s index measures countries on four indicators of moms’ wellbeing: risk of maternal death; under-five mortality rate; expected number of years of formal schooling; the gross national income per capita and participation of women in government.
This year, as last, the top of the table was dominated by European countries with Norway replacing Finland at the top spot.
The United Kingdom came in at 24th position.
The report, for the first time this year, looked at the different access to health care for children from rich and poor families in major cities around the world.
Save the Children found that the highest child death rates occurred in slums across the sub-continent.
The high rates of child mortality are fuelled by a range of factors, including social and economic inequalities.
While high-quality private sector health facilities are more plentiful in urban areas, the urban poor often lack the ability to pay for this care – and may face discrimination or even abuse when seeking care. Public sector health systems are typically under-funded, and often fail to reach those most in need with basic health services.
In many instances, the poor resort to seeking care from unqualified health practitioners, often paying for care that is poor quality, or in some cases, harmful, the report found.
On average, according to Save the Children, children living among the urban poor in India have a lower under-five survival rate (85 deaths per 1,000 live births) than children in rural India where child mortality stands at 82 deaths for every 1,000 live births.
There is a glimmer of hope for the region – Nepal and Bangladesh have made some strides in terms of the survival of newborn babies.
In Bangladesh, the number of newborn deaths per 1000 live births has declined by half to 26 over the past two decades whilst in Nepal the number has dropped an equal measure to 27.