More new born babies die in India annually than in any other country, even though the number of neonatal deaths around the world has seen a slow decline, a new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
New born deaths decreased from 4.6 million in 1990 to 3.3 million in 2009, and fell slightly faster in the years since 2000, according to the study led by researchers from WHO, Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The study, which covers a 20-year-period and all the 193 WHO member states, found that new born deaths - characterised as deaths in the first four weeks of life (neonatal period) – account for 41 % of all child deaths before the age of five.
Almost 99 % of the newborn deaths occur in the developing world, with more than half taking place in the five large countries of India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and Congo.
"India alone has more than 900,000 newborn deaths per year, nearly 28 % of the global total," WHO said, adding that India had the largest number of neonatal deaths throughout the study.
Nigeria, the world's seventh most populous country, ranked second in new born deaths – up from fifth in 1990. Three quarters of neonatal deaths around the world are caused by pre-term delivery, asphyxia and severe infections, such as sepsis and pneumonia.
WHO pointed out that two thirds or more of these deaths can be prevented with existing interventions.