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Pakistani, Afghanistan Babies Face 'Alarming' Death Risk, UNICEF Says

A malnourished child is fed at a UNICEF medical center in Bangladesh. (file photo)

Babies born in the world's poorest countries face "alarming" risks of death, with the highest mortality rates occurring in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and sub-Saharan Africa, a February 20 report from the United Nations Children's Fund said.

Despite major advances in medical care, the report said that 7,000 newborns die every day in the poorest countries.

Babies born in Japan, Iceland, and Singapore have the greatest chance of survival -- as much as 50 times higher than in poor countries, it said.

"Every year, 2.6 million newborns around the world do not survive their first month of life," UNICEF's executive director Henrietta Fore said. "Given that many of these deaths are preventable, clearly we are failing the world's poorest babies."

The report said that newborns are not dying from medical causes, but because their families are too poor or marginalized to access care.

In response, UNICEF established the Every Child ALIVE campaign, which calls on governments and the private sector to increase access to newborn care.

"Just a few small steps from all of us can help ensure the first small steps of each of these young lives," Fore said.

The report said that more than 80 percent of newborn deaths can be prevented "with access to well-trained midwives, along with proven solutions like clean water, disinfectants, breastfeeding within the first hour, skin-to-skin contact, and good nutrition."

But shortages of properly trained health workers are a problem in poorer nations, the report said, noting that, while a rich country like Norway has 18 medical workers for every 10,000 people, impoverished Somalia has only one.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters