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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Experts Say Simple Measures Could Save 3 Million Babies Yearly

Broadcast: March 21, 2005

I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Development Report. Each year, four million babies die within their first month of life. That is more than ten thousand deaths each day, or seven each minute. Yet simple measures could prevent seventy-five percent of these deaths.

These are the findings in a series of four reports written by health experts from around the world. The Lancet medical magazine published the reports this month on its Web site.

The first paper reports on the major direct causes of deaths in newborn babies. These are infections, early birth and the loss of oxygen during pregnancy. Southern Africa has the highest death rates, but south and central Asia have the largest number of deaths.

Researchers say two out of three of the deaths happen in ten countries. These include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. The others are India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tanzania. The report says more than half of women in these areas give birth at home with no help from trained health care workers.

The second report proposes sixteen simple methods that could help prevent most deaths in newborn babies. These include injections against tetanus for pregnant women and clean conditions for births. Others are antibiotic medicine to fight infections in newborns and breastfeeding immediately after birth.

The third paper says there is no one solution for poor countries to improve health care for babies. Most developing nations do not have enough skilled health workers. The report calls for major investment to change this. It also suggests special campaigns to prevent tetanus in pregnant women and simple home care of small babies.

The final paper is a call to action to save lives. It says the cost is low, but there has to be political will at national and international levels.

Currently, it says, about two thousand million dollars is spent each year to fight infant deaths. But the seventy-five countries with the highest death rates need an estimated four thousand million dollars more.

The four reports are the second part in a child survival campaign by The Lancet. The first, in July of two thousand three, examined deaths in children under age five.

There is no cost to read the reports online, but users must register at the site. The address is thelancet.com.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I'm Gwen Outen.