Balkan states highest percentage of under-five deaths
For the first time in history, the complications of preterm birth outrank all other causes as the world’s number one killer of young children.
Of the estimated 6.3 million deaths of children under the age of five in 2013, complications from preterm births accounted for nearly 1.1 million deaths, according to new findings published in The Lancet by a research team coordinated by Robert Black, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, together with World Health Organization and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Specifically, direct complications from preterm births accounted for 965,000 deaths during the first 28 days of life, with an additional 125,000 deaths between the ages of one month and five years. Other main causes for young child deaths include pneumonia, which killed 935,000 children under-five, and childbirth complications, which caused 720,000 deaths (662,000 in the neonatal period, most on the first day of life, and 58,000 in the post-neonatal period).
“This marks a turning of the tide, a transition from infections to neonatal conditions, especially those related to premature births, and this will require entirely different medical and public health approaches,” says Joy Lawn, M.D., Ph.D., of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, a member of the research team and a long-term advisor to Save the Children. “The success we’ve seen in the ongoing fight against infectious diseases demonstrates that we can also be successful if we invest in prevention and care for preterm birth.”
The 10 countries with the highest percentage of under-five deaths directly resulting from preterm birth complications are: (FYR) Macedonia, 51.0 percent; Slovenia, 47.5 percent; Denmark, 43.0 percent; Serbia, 39.8 percent; the United Kingdom, 38.7 percent; Hungary, 37.4 percent; Slovakia, 34.9 percent; Poland, 34.8 percent; Republic of Korea and Switzerland, 32.7 percent. All of these exceed the global average of 17.4 percent of under-five deaths, partly because of success in reducing infectious diseases.