Development Health Advice 

Countries must up their game to reduce low birth weights, warns UN-backed report

Around one-in-seven babies worldwide weighed less than 5.5 pounds, or 2.5 kilogrammes at birth, according to latest data from 2015.

The Lancet Global Health research paper was developed by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which not only reveals that more than 20 million babies that year were born with a low birthweight, but that 80 per cent of the world’s 2.5 million low weight newborns die every year, because they are either pre-term and/or small for gestational age.

We have seen very little change over 15 years – Report author

“We have seen very little change over 15 years”, spelled out lead author Hannah Blencowe, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom. “Despite clear commitments, our estimates indicate that national Governments are doing too little to reduce low birth weight”.

In 2012, WHO’s 195 member States committed to reduce its prevalence by 30 per cent, by 2025. However, estimates found only a 1.2 per cent decrease worldwide – from 22.9 million low birthweight livebirths in 2000 to 20.5 million in 2015 – indicating that if the rate did not pick up, the world would fall well short of the annual 2.7 per cent reduction required to meet the 2012 target.

Weighing in

Although every newborn must be weighed, co-author UNICEF Statistics and Monitoring Specialist, Julia Krasevec, said that “worldwide, we don’t have a record for the birth weight of nearly one-third of all newborns”.

“We cannot help babies born with low birth weight without improving the coverage and accuracy of the data we collect”, Ms. Krasevec added.

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