Vietnam among top ten in reducing infant mortality

Nhan Dan Online – Vietnam is among the top ten countries worldwide that have made the greatest strides in saving newborn lives over the past two decades, Save the Children says.

The children’s aid agency launched its fourteenth annual State of the World’s Mothers report today, which revealed a 48% decline in newborn mortality rate in Vietnam for the period from 1990 to 2011. The report compares 176 countries around the globe, and shows which are succeeding and which are failing in saving and improving the lives of mothers and their children.

Vietnam ranked 86th on the list of best places to be a mother, based on factors such as mother’s health, education and economic status, as well as critical child indicators such as health and nutrition. It came in ahead of ASEAN bloc counterparts Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar, but trailed Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Overall, Finland was ranked the best place to be a mother while the Democratic Republic of Congo came in last.

In addition, the report contains the first-ever Birth Day Risk Index with the death rate for babies in their first day of life in 186 countries. About 1-in-250 Vietnamese babies die within the first day of life, accounting for one-third of all newborn deaths, making it the most dangerous day for any baby.

“Vietnam is on track to achieving child and maternal mortality reduction targets as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals. However, each year more than 17,000 babies still die within the first month of life, many of these deaths are preventable,” said Tuan Doan, Interim Country Director for Save the Children in Vietnam.

“The leading causes of newborn deaths in Vietnam include preterm birth, asphyxia and sepsis. According to the report, four products which only cost between 13 cents and US$6 per treatment can prevent one-third of newborn deaths each year. Given that almost all mothers deliver their babies with a skilled attendant present, we can prevent thousands of Vietnamese children from dying needlessly each year if we train health workers to use these products.”

These life-saving products for infants include corticosteroid injections to women in preterm labour, resuscitation devices to save babies who do not breathe at birth, chlorhexidine cord cleansing to prevent umbilical cord infections, and injectable antibiotics to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia.

The charity calls on Vietnamese leaders to invest in low-cost solutions that can dramatically reduce newborn mortality, strengthen health systems so women have greater access to skilled birth attendants and fight the underlying causes of newborn mortality, especially gender inequality and malnutrition.