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A baby is never more vulnerable than before it is born, and in its first month of life. In fact, approximately 40% of child deaths, globally, occur before the first month of life is completed.

Another sad truth is that this figure does not represent the thousands upon thousands of babies whose deaths are not even reported, because the birth takes place in rural regions, where access to the nearest hospital or local government office is a day or more’s walk away. Likewise, many deaths are not reported because many people still view a miscarriage or s stillbirth as something to be forgotten, swept under the carpet or to ‘get over’. So this figure is merely an estimate.


(Dark green = 1 death per 1000 live births; brown = 110 deaths per 1000 live births.)

Approximately 2.6 million babies are stillborn per year (according to The Lancet’s publication in April 2011). This translates to about 1 in every 200 pregnancies in countries with the lowest rate (high income countries, mostly in the West) and 1 in every 15 pregnancies in countries with the highest rate (low income countries, mostly in Africa and Asia).

Half of all stillbirths occur during labour. Two-thirds of all stillbirths occur in rural areas where specialist obstetric help is either non-existent or not easily available.

In high risk pregnancies (irrespective of the country) the figure is approximately 1 for every 50 pregnancies. Statistics on the number of unexplained stillbirths range from from about half to about 70% that cannot be explained, depending on the country involved.

South Africa

Approximately 23 000 babies die every year (the equivalent to a daily crash of 4 full minibus taxis, killing all passengers) -which is 61 stillbirth babies and 58 neonatal (newborn) deaths every DAY in South Africa. Most of these could be prevented by implementing key interventions that would only cost an extra R35 per person.

In towns and cities the rate of deaths is higher – 1 for every 25 live births, compared to 1 for every 40 live births in rural areas. At first sight, this statistic makes no sense. However, given the vast stretches of our nation that are either inaccessible by road, isolated during the winter months, or simply miles from any hospital, there are probably thousands more whose births and deaths are never reported. If you take this into account, then this statistic makes a little more sense. In addition, many people who give birth to a baby under 1000g will probably never register their child, which also skews the results somewhat.



The Citizen report

News24 report



Tommy’s Baby Charity

Saving Babies 2003-2005: 5th perinatal care survey of South Africa

Stillbirth rates: delivering estimates in 190 countries

Why babies die

Infant mortality






One Comment


  1. The Lancet report: 15 April 2011 « Bornsleeping

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