A report on newborn mortality rate – the number of deaths per 1,000 live births – has ranked India the 12th worst country to be born in among 52 lower middle-income nations.

In the Unicef report released on Tuesday, India (25.4 deaths per 1,000 births) ranks below its neighbours – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan – in neonatal risk, but fares much better than Pakistan, which was ranked among the lowest in the list.

This is the first time that the Unicef has ranked countries based on their newborn mortality rate. Japan topped the list, followed by Iceland, Singapore, Finland and Estonia. The Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Somalia and Lesotho followed Pakistan among the worst five in the list.

Source: Unicef
Source: Unicef

‘Need to halve neonatal deaths in 12 years’

Every year, 26 lakh babies die worldwide within 28 days of birth, which is an average of 7,000 deaths every day. Of these, 6.4 lakh neonatal deaths occur in India.

“We are currently off-track to meet our commitment to lower neonatal mortality to 12/1,000 live births by 2030 – we have to halve it in the next 12 years,” said Unicef’s representative in India Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, according to the Hindustan Times. “But again, the focus gets narrower and sharper as we approach deadline, so we have to stay the course.”

Unicef said “we are failing the world’s poorest babies” as the majority of the neonatal deaths – more than 80% – can be prevented “with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact and good nutrition”. It pointed out that poorer nations lacked properly trained health workers and midwives.

India’s headway in improving under-five mortality

Under-five mortality in India dropped below one million for the first time in 2016 – 1.2 lakh fewer children below the age of five died in the country in 2016 than the previous year.

Under-five deaths in India reduced by 66% between 1990 and 2015. This rate of decline brings India back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals target for under-five mortality of 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.