20.1 mln newborns by December in India may pose health challenge amid COVID-19: UNICEF

Source: Xinhua| 2020-05-08 17:08:31|Editor: huaxia

NEW DELHI, May 8 (Xinhua) -- A new health challenge is starting as an estimated 20.1 million babies are expected to take birth in India by the second week of December, while the country continues to fight COVID-19 with limited medical and health infrastructure, equipment and resources.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had declared COVID-19 as a worldwide pandemic on March 11. In 40 weeks (or nine months of a normal pregnancy) till December 16, an estimated 116 million babies will take birth across the world, thereby throwing a challenge on health and medical facilities.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a press release that pregnant mothers and babies born during COVID-19 pandemic were threatened by "strained health systems and disruptions in services" across the world.

As per official figures, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in India was 33 per 1,000 live births in the year 2017, and it improved to nearly 30 per 1,000 live births by 2019.

India's maternal mortality rate (MMR) improved from 130 per 100,000 live births in 2014-2016 to 122 in 2015-2018, according to the latest data released by the National Sample Registration System. This is a result of gradual improvement in health infrastructure in the country, and more and more women delivering in health facilities, instead of opting for traditional ways of women delivering at home.

As estimated 25 million newborns are added to India's population each year, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of the world's annual child births. Every minute one of those babies dies, says UNICEF.

Nearly 46 percent of all maternal deaths and 40 percent of neonatal deaths happen during labor or the first 24 hours after birth in India.

The UNICEF made an urgent appeal to governments and health care providers to save lives in the coming months by helping pregnant women to receive antenatal checkups, skilled delivery care, postnatal care services, and care related to COVID-19. It also suggested training, protecting and equipping health workers with clean birth-kits to attend home births where health facilities are closed. Enditem