UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- A stillborn baby is delivered every 16 seconds, which translates into nearly two million infants over the course of a year that never take their first breath, according to a new United Nations (UN) report published on Thursday.
The report titled "A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths," jointly released by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, finds that 84 percent of stillbirths occur in low and lower-middle income countries in 2019.
The first-ever stillbirth report also points out that stillbirths remain a challenge for high-income countries, where a mother's level of education is one of the greatest drivers of inequity, and ethnic minorities may lack access to sufficient quality health care.
"Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
In addition, the report warns that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely cause a further rise in the number of stillbirths over the next 12 months.
A pandemic-induced 50-percent reduction in health services, could cause nearly 200,000 additional stillbirths in the upcoming year in 117 low-and middle-income countries, according to modeling done for the report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Muhammad Ali Pate, global director for health, nutrition and population at the World Bank, and director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents, said that "COVID-19 has triggered a devastating secondary health crisis for women, children and adolescents due to disruptions in life-saving health services."
Poor quality of pregnancy and delivery care, a lack of antenatal and intrapartum services and weak nursing and midwifery workforces are responsible for most of these occurrences, said the report.
However, the report suggests that even before the pandemic, few women in low-and middle-income countries received timely, high-quality care to prevent stillbirths, with coverage ranging from less than 2 percent to only 50 percent in eight important maternal health interventions, including C-sections, malaria prevention and pregnancy hypertension management.
Despite advances in health services from 2000 to 2019, the annual stillbirth reduction rate was just 2.3 percent, compared with a 2.9-percent reduction in neonatal mortality, and 4.3 percent in mortality among children aged one to 59 months, according to the report. Enditem