India had the highest number of maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal deaths globally in 2020, a report by the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The report was released during the ongoing International Maternal Newborn Health Conference at Cape Town. The conference is being hosted by the South African government and AlignMNH – a knowledge-sharing platform funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development.

According to the report, there were 7,88,000 maternal deaths, stillbirths and neonatal deaths in India in 2020. The country accounted for 17% of such deaths in that year. India also accounted for 17% of the world’s live births in 2020.

India was estimated to have had 24,000 maternal deaths, 2,97,000 stillbirths and 4,68,000 neonatal deaths in 2020. The estimates on maternal deaths were based on information from the United Nations Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group. The estimates on stillbirths and neonatal deaths were based on data from the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.

According to the report, India heads a list of ten countries that together account for 60% of such deaths worldwide. The other countries are Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Afghanistan and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Worldwide, there were a total of 4.5 million such deaths in 2020. “Trend data reveal global progress in reducing maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths has slowed during the last decade,” the report said. “Gains made between 2000 and 2010 were faster than they have been in the years since 2010.”

Anshu Banerjee, director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization, said that pregnant women and newborns continue to die at unacceptably high rates across the world. He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has created further setbacks to providing them with healthcare.

“More and smarter investments in primary healthcare are needed now so that every woman and baby – no matter where they live – has the best chance of health and survival,” Banerjee said.