Neonatal death rate remains static despite other successes
While the country is witnessing significant improvement every year in most health indicators, the death rate of newborns remains static, which is a matter of great concern, according to experts.
Health and population experts link better health outcomes to sustained growth of per capita income and expansion of health services both in rural and urban areas.
"If neonatal care is improved, then the progress of health outcomes will be much higher," said population expert Prof Nurun Nabi, vice chancellor of Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), maternal mortality rate came down to 1.97 per 1,000 live births in 2013 from 2.03 the previous year.
Birth rate increased by 0.1 to 19.0 per 1,000 people during 2012 and 2013, but death rate remained the same at 5.3, says the BBS report titled "Sample Vital Registration System, 2009-2013", which will be published soon.
Dr Nurun Nabi termed the downslide in neonatal health situation as a matter of grave concern, however, he said care for the pregnant mothers has increased, which is laudable.
However, care for newborn babies, who are vulnerable for 28 days after birth, needs to be improved drastically to upgrade the overall health status of people in Bangladesh.
"In Canada, nurses follow up newborns for a month. How care is provided in our country needs to be reviewed," Prof Nurun Nabi told The Daily Star.
Neonatal deaths mostly occur among the poor in the society, particularly in remote areas like chars and haors and in slums, he said.
Ubaidur Rob, country director of Population Council, an international NGO in Bangladesh, said a large number of children below the age of five are dying every year. a major reason for it is neonatal death.
If a pregnant mother, particularly females below 18, suffers from malnutrition, she is likely to give birth to an underweight baby who is more vulnerable, said Rob.
Moreover, most babies born to females who are underage and suffer from anaemia die within seven days after birth due to anaemia, he said, pointing out the importance of ending child marriages.