Tag: UNICEF

2 million babies stillborn worldwide: joint UN estimates

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Aruna Patel (28) giving KMC to the new born child. Mothers of newborns are trained and educated on the benefits of KMC by hospital staff. Location: Baria District Hospital, Baria, Gujarat, July 2020. Photo- Vinay Panjwani, UNICEF.

One stillbirth occurs every 16 seconds, according to first-ever joint UN estimates. COVID-19-related health service disruptions could worsen the situation, potentially adding nearly 200,000 more stillbirths over a 12-month period.

NEW YORK/ GENEVA, 8 October 2020– Almost 2 million babies are stillborn every year – or 1 every 16 seconds – according to the first-ever joint stillbirth estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group, and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The vast majority of stillbirths, 84 percent, occur in low- and lower-middle-income countries, according to the new report, A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths. In 2019, 3 in 4 stillbirths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa or Southern Asia. A stillbirth is defined in the report as a baby born with no signs of life at 28 weeks of pregnancy or more.

“Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Every 16 seconds, a mother somewhere will suffer the unspeakable tragedy of stillbirth. Beyond the loss of life, the psychological and financial costs for women, families, and societies are severe and long-lasting. For many of these mothers, it simply didn’t have to be this way. A majority of stillbirths could have been prevented with high-quality monitoring, proper antenatal care, and a skilled birth attendant.”

The report warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen the global number of stillbirths. A 50 percent reduction in health services due to the pandemic could cause nearly 200,000 additional stillbirths over a 12-month period in 117 low- and middle-income countries. This corresponds to an increase in the number of stillbirths by 11.1 percent. According to modeling done for the report by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 13 countries could see a 20 percent increase or more in the number of stillbirths over a 12-month period.

Most stillbirths are due to poor quality of care during pregnancy and birth. Lack of investments in antenatal and intrapartum services and in strengthening the nursing and midwifery workforce are key challenges, the report says.

Over 40 percent of stillbirths occur during labor—a loss that could be avoided with access to a trained health worker at childbirth and timely emergency obstetric care. Around half of the stillbirths in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia occur during labor, compared to 6 percent in Europe, Northern America, Australia, and New Zealand.

Even before the pandemic caused critical disruptions in health services, few women in low- and middle-income countries received timely and high-quality care to prevent stillbirths. Half of the 117 countries analyzed in the report have coverage that ranges from a low of less than 2 percent to a high of only 50 percent for 8 important maternal health interventions such as C-section, malaria prevention, management of hypertension in pregnancy, and syphilis detection and treatment. Coverage for assisted vaginal delivery – a critical intervention for preventing stillbirths during labor – is estimated to reach less than half of pregnant women who need it.

As a result, despite advances in health services to prevent or treat causes of child death, progress in lowering the stillbirth rate has been slow. From 2000 to 2019, the annual rate of reduction in the stillbirth rate was just 2.3 percent, compared to a 2.9 percent reduction in neonatal mortality, and 4.3 percent in mortality among children aged 1–59 months. Progress, however, is possible with sound policy, programs, and investment.

“Welcoming a baby into the world should be a time of great joy, but every day thousands of parents experience unbearable sadness because their babies are stillborn,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The tragedy of stillbirth shows how vital it is to reinforce and maintain essential health services, and how critical it is to increase investment in nurses and midwives.”

The report also notes that stillbirth is not only a challenge for poor countries. In 2019, 39 high-income countries had a higher number of stillbirths than neonatal deaths and 15 countries had a higher number of stillbirths than infant deaths. A mother’s level of education is one of the greatest drivers of inequity in high-income countries.

In both low- and high-income settings, stillbirth rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Socioeconomic status is also linked to a greater incidence of stillbirth. For example, in Nepal, women of minority castes had stillbirth rates between 40 to 60 percent higher than women from upper-class castes.

Ethnic minorities in high-income countries, in particular, may lack access to enough quality health care. The report cites that Inuit populations in Canada, for example, have been observed to have stillbirth rates nearly three times higher than the rest of Canada, and African American women in the United States of America have nearly twice the risk of stillbirth compared to white women.

“COVID-19 has triggered a devastating secondary health crisis for women, children, and adolescents due to disruptions in life-saving health services,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents. “Pregnant women need continued access to quality care, throughout their pregnancy and during childbirth. We are supporting countries in strengthening their health systems to prevent stillbirths and ensure that every pregnant woman can access quality health care services.”

Source- WHO,7 October 2020.

UN report: 690 million people went hungry in 2019 ; achieving zero hunger by 2030 in doubt

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Photo- FAO

By SAT News Desk/WHO Media

Rome, 13 July 2020 – More people are going hungry, an annual study by the United Nations has found. Tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.

The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published today, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years. High costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously. The hungry are most numerous in Asia but expanding fastest in Africa. Across the planet, the report forecasts, the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. (Flare-ups of acute hunger in the pandemic context may see this number escalate further at times.)

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. It is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Writing in the Foreword, the heads of the five agencies warn that “five years after the world committed to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off-track to achieve this objective by 2030.”

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The hunger numbers explained

In this edition, critical data updates for China and other populous countries have led to a substantial cut in estimates of the global number of hungry people, to the current 690 million. Nevertheless, there has been no change in the trend. Revising the entire hunger series back to the year 2000 yields the same conclusion: after steadily diminishing for decades, chronic hunger slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so.

Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished (381 million). Africa is second (250 million), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million). The global prevalence of undernourishment – or overall percentage of hungry people – has changed little at 8.9 percent, but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014. This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.

This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry.

The pandemic’s toll

As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems – understood as all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution, and consumption of food. While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19. iii The setback throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

Unhealthy diets, food insecurity, and malnutrition

Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms (including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about more than securing enough food to survive: what people eat – and especially what children eat – must also be nutritious. Yet a key obstacle is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families.

The report presents evidence that a healthy diet costs far more than US$ 1.90/day, the international poverty threshold. It puts the price of even the least expensive healthy diet at five times the price of filling stomachs with starch only. Nutrient-rich dairy, fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods (plant and animal-sourced) are the most expensive food groups globally.

The latest estimates are that a staggering 3 billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57 percent of the population – though no region, including North America and Europe, is spared. Partly as a result, the race to end malnutrition appears compromised. According to the report, in 2019, between a quarter and a third of children under five (191 million) were stunted or wasted – too short or too thin. Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own right.

A call to action

The report argues that once sustainability considerations are factored in, a global switch to healthy diets would help check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings. It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030, to be almost entirely offset; while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion, could be cut by up to three-quarters.iv

The report urges the transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. While the specific solutions will differ from country to country, and even within them, the overall answers lie with interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the food environment, and in the political economy that shapes trade, public expenditure, and investment policies. The study calls on governments to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture; work to cut cost-escalating factors in the production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing of food – including by reducing inefficiencies and food loss and waste; support local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods, and secure their access to markets; prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behavior change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.

The heads of the five UN agencies behind the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World have declared their commitment to support this momentous shift, ensuring that it unfolds “in a sustainable way, for people and the planet.”

READ FULL REPORT HERE