WHO updates fact sheet on Neonatal Mortality

Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its fact sheet on neonatal mortality.

Background information:

Neonatal period: The period from birth to 28 days of life.

Key Messages:

In 2015, neonatal deaths accounted for nearly 45% of all deaths under the age of five years.

The vast majority of newborn deaths take place in developing countries where access to health care is low. Most of these newborns die at home, without skilled care that could greatly increase their chances for survival.

Although home deliveries are common in developing countries, only 13% of women in these countries receive postnatal care in the first 24 hours.

75% of all neonatal deaths occur in the first 7 days of life; with 25-45% occurring in the first 24 hours of life.

Nearly 80% of neonatal deaths are due to:

  • prematurity and low-birth-weight,
  • infections,
  • asphyxia (lack of oxygen at birth) and
  • birth trauma

Up to two thirds of newborn deaths could be prevented if skilled health workers perform effective health measures at birth and during the first week of life.

Home care visits should occur on days 1 and 3 of a newborn’s life, and if possible, a third visit should take place before the end of the first week of life (day 7).

During home visits, for all newborns, skilled health care workers should:

  • promote and support early (within the first hour after birth) and exclusive breastfeeding;
  • help to keep the newborn warm (promoting skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant);
  • promote hygienic umbilical cord and skin care;
  • assess the baby for signs of serious health problems, and advise families to seek prompt medical care if necessary (danger signs include feeding problems, or if the newborn has reduced activity, difficult breathing, a fever, fits or convulsions, or feels cold);
  • encourage birth registration and timely vaccination according to national schedules;
  • identify and support newborns that need additional care (e.g. those that are low-birth-weight, sick or have an HIV-infected mother); and
  • if feasible, provide home treatment for local infections and some feeding problems.

Additional care will be required for the following newborns:

  • Low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg at birth)
  • Sick newborns
  • Newborns of HIV infected mothers


Useful Links:

Link to the WHO fact sheet:


Link to the causes of neonatal deaths chart (2008):


Link to WHO’s Global Health Observatory graphs on neonatal mortality:


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