The World Health Organisation in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank Group, and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs have released an estimate of almost 2 million stillbirths every year – an average of 1 stillbirth in every 16 seconds. About 84% occur in low and lower-middle-income countries according to this report. In 2019, 3 in 4 stillbirths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa or Southern Asia.
“Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Every 16 seconds, a mother somewhere will suffer the unspeakable tragedy of stillbirth. Beyond the loss of life, the psychological and financial costs for women, families, and societies are severe and long-lasting. For many of these mothers, it simply didn’t have to be this way. A majority of stillbirths could have been prevented with high-quality monitoring, proper antenatal care and a skilled birth attendant.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, the report warned, might worsen the global number. “ A 50 per cent reduction in health services due to the pandemic could cause nearly 200 000 additional stillbirths over a 12-month period in 117 low- and middle-income countries. This corresponds to an increase in the number of stillbirths by 11.1 per cent,” a release by WHO reads.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General said, “Welcoming a baby into the world should be a time of great joy, but every day thousands of parents experience unbearable sadness because their babies are stillborn.”
“The tragedy of stillbirth shows how vital it is to reinforce and maintain essential health services, and how critical it is to increase investment in nurses and midwives.”