Greatest number found in India, followed by Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China and Ethiopia, with these six countries accounting for half of the estimated global number of stillbirths and 44 per cent of global live births.
A recently released report, A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths, the first-ever stillbirth report by the UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN-IGME), reveals huge differences in stillbirth rates across the globe, with a risk that is up to 23 times higher in the worst affected countries.
Stillbirths were concentrated in a few countries, with the greatest number found in India, followed by Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China and Ethiopia. These six countries accounted for half of the estimated global number of stillbirths and 44 per cent of global live births.
According to the report, a stillbirth occurs every 16 seconds somewhere in the world. This means that every year, about 2 million babies are stillborn – a loss that reaches far beyond the loss of life. It has a traumatic long-lasting impact on women and their families around the world, who often endure profound psychological suffering as well as stigma from their communities, even in high-income countries. Perhaps even more tragically, the majority of these deaths could have been avoided with high-quality care antenatally and during birth. Over 40 per cent of all stillbirths occurred during labour – a loss that could be prevented with improved monitoring and access to emergency obstetric care when required.
The report finds that despite progress being made since 2000, stillbirths have not declined as rapidly as maternal and newborn mortality, and if current trends continue, an additional 19 million stillbirths will take place before 2030. More than 200,000 additional stillbirths could also occur over the next 12 months in 117 low- and middle-income countries due to severe COVID-related disruptions in health care services.