Bhutan Ranks 60th Worldwide in Neonatal Mortality Rate

As a way forward it is has been found that Places, People, Products and Power to provide universal health coverage are required and policymakers and providers should be held accountable for the quality of services.

Children of Laya in Bhutan. (Source:


According to the global campaign launched by UNICEF on 20 Feb 2012 titled “Every Child ALIVE”, the report states that eight of the countries with the highest newborn mortality rates are considered fragile states.

In these countries, crises including conflict, natural disasters, instability and poor governance have often impaired health systems and hampered the ability of policymakers to formulate and implement policies that promote newborn survival. Bhutan ranks 60th among 184 countries in the neonatal mortality rate.

The report states that there is a difference between newborn mortality rates and the number of newborns who die each year.

“In countries with large numbers of newborns, the mortality rates may be lower than in countries with fewer newborns, but the actual number of deaths is higher.

Focus on the poorest and most marginalised

In these countries, scaled up action to prevent newborn deaths, focusing particularly on the poorest and most marginalised, will be critical for success in global efforts to end preventable newborn mortality,” states the report.

On average, high-income countries have a newborn mortality rate of 3, compared with 27 for low-income countries. This gap has been accounted as significant because if every country brought its newborn mortality rate down to the high-income average, or below, by 2030, 16 million newborn lives could be saved.

Just as newborn mortality rates vary by country, the report states that the progress in reducing these rates also varies from country to country. Some low- and lower-middle-income countries have achieved impressive reductions in mortality rates despite limited resources.

Rwanda as an example of government commitment to reduce infant mortality rate

The achievement of Rwanda, a low-income country, in reducing its newborn mortality rate from 41 in 1990 to 17 in 2016 was made possible by a committed government that took an active role in implementing a national insurance scheme that reached the poorest, most vulnerable mothers.

An agenda for action called by the UNICEF to keep every child was also highlighted. By expanding access to health services, maternal and newborn health services has been considered a necessary first step in bringing down rates of newborn mortality.

Support given to expectant mothers

In most cases, the odds of survival increase dramatically when women give birth with the support of a skilled health attendant or in a health facility. The other call for action is the monitoring of the quality of care given before and after childbirth.

“Supporting early initiation of breastfeeding is one of the ways health-care workers can help protect the lives of newborns. In countries like Rwanda and Nepal, where rates of early initiation of breastfeeding have improved dramatically, newborn mortality has also fallen rapidly.”

As a way forward it is has been found that Places, People, Products and Power to provide universal health coverage are required and policymakers and providers should be held accountable for the quality of services.

The campaign calls for an urgent priority for every government, to drive forward progress towards a world with universal health coverage, where no newborn dies of a preventable cause.


By Sonam Yangdon (This article has been edited for the New Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared in The Bhutanese.


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