Every 16 seconds, somewhere in the world, a mother suffers the indescribable tragedy of bringing a stillborn baby into the world. This represents close to two million babies, according to the first joint estimates of fetal mortality published by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United.
The vast majority of stillbirths, 84%, occur in low- and lower-middle-income countries, according to the new report A Forgotten Tragedy: The Global Burden of Fetal Mortality. A stillborn is described in the report as a baby born without symptoms of life at 28 weeks or more gestation.
COVID-19-related interruptions in health services could exacerbate the situation and cause 200,000 new fetal deaths over a 12-month period in 117 low- and middle-income countries.
According to an analysis conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for the report, 13 countries could see a 20% or more increase in the number of stillbirths over a 12-month period.
The UN report assures that the majority of stillbirths could be avoided with quality follow-up, adequate prenatal care and the assistance of a qualified midwife.
More than 40% of fetal deaths occur during childbirth, a loss that could be prevented with the assistance of a qualified healthcare professional during delivery and timely obstetric care in emergencies.
Despite advances in health services to prevent or treat the causes of infant mortality, progress in reducing the fetal mortality rate has been slow.
Between 2000 and 2019, the annual rate of reduction in the fetal mortality rate was only 2.3%, compared with the reduction of 2.9% for the neonatal mortality rate and 4.3% for the mortality of infants one to one. 59 months. However, progress is possible if sound policies, programs and investments are in place, the report highlights.
On the other hand, the report highlights that fetal mortality is not just a problem in poor countries. In 2019, 39 high-income countries had a higher fetal mortality rate than neonatal deaths, and 15 countries had a higher number of stillbirths than children under one year of age.
The United Nations Inter-Agency Group for the Estimation of Child Mortality was created in 2004 to share data on infant mortality, improve methods for estimating infant mortality, report on progress made in reaching child survival goals. and improve the capacity of countries to generate timely and duly evaluated estimates of infant mortality.
The Group is led by UNICEF and is also part of the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.