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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 November 2006, 02:12 GMT
Africa baby deaths 'preventable'
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

African children
Up to 500,000 African babies die within a day of being born
More than one million African babies each year die within their first month of life, says a report. The World Health Organisation reveals many newborns are dying from infections which could be cheaply prevented.

But statistics show even in the poorest African countries, investment in ante-natal and newborn care could dramatically reduce mortality rates.

The WHO report, released in Geneva, also highlights the inequalities in global health.

Nowhere are those inequalities more starkly revealed than in infant mortality.

In Liberia, among 1,000 births, 66 babies will die.

In Japan, the mortality rate is just two in 1,000.

Ante-natal care

As many as 500,000 African babies die within 24 hours of being born.

The report says they die of things which are easily and cheaply prevented, starting with ante-natal care.

African child
Countries investing in infant health care saw death rates fall

Two-thirds of African women get some form of it, but only 10% get preventative treatment for malaria and only 1% of HIV-positive mothers are getting the treatment necessary to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Then, once the babies are born, they can succumb to common newborn infections - things which are a nuisance and a bit of a worry to parents in the developed world are fatal for infants in Africa.

But the WHO says there are signs of hope.

Some of Africa's poorest countries like Eritrea and Malawi have increased spending on mothers and babies, resulting in a sharp drop in infant mortality.

Simple things like more midwives and more health education for new mothers can save thousands of babies.

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