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South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa struggling with underweight newborns

The 10 countries with the largest number of underweight newborns all come from South Asia and Africa, with Bangladesh leading the way, followed by Comoros and Nepal, a global study released on Thursday revealed .

In 2015, nearly 27% or 864,800 babies born in Bangladesh weighed less than 2.5 kg compared to the global standard. In 2000, 36% of babies born in the country were underweight. In Comoros and Nepal, the rate was 23.7 and 21.8 respectively.

The Philippines, Laos and Mauritius placed respectively 5th, 7th and 10th. Underweight babies have high mortality rates and are at risk of stunting and chronic diseases.

Globally, over 80% of the 2.5 million newborns in the world who die each year are underweight. Southeast Asia accounts for almost half of the underweight babies in the world, with an estimated 9.8 million in 2015.

China, the world's most populous country, reported 17,121,600 live births in 2015, of which 846,900 were underweight babies, an improvement from 940,600 underweight births in 2000. Researchers Were unable to calculate this number in India for lack of quality data.

"India and China have the largest number of births in the world.India has partial data, and we do not report on it," said Joy Lawn, director of adolescent reproductive and child health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told CGTN Digital.

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In sub-Saharan Africa, underweight births increased from 4.4 million to five million, mainly because of factors such as migration and fertility.

The situation is alarming because such babies are born in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to an analysis by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. (WHO), published in the journal "Lancet".

In 2012, about 195 countries were concerned about the high prevalence of underweight babies determined to reduce these births by 30% by 2025. But the present study found that the global prevalence of low birth weight does not increase. Was only marginally increased from 17.5% in 2000 to 14.6% in 2015..

The top 10 countries with low birth weight babies. / CGTN Graphics

The top 10 countries with low birth weight babies. / CGTN Graphics

The dismal decline rate suggests that additional measures are needed to reach the target. "Despite clear commitments, our estimates indicate that national governments are not doing enough to reduce low birth weight," said Dr. Hannah Blencowe, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and lead author of the study.

Why are so many babies born underweight?

Experts point to a series of factors explaining the low birth weight of babies, including the age of pregnancy, women giving birth to adolescence or having reached the age of 40.

Multiple pregnancies, high blood pressure and nutritional status, as well as exposure to environmental factors such as indoor air pollution, tobacco and substance abuse also affect the weight of newborns.

Low intrauterine growth is one of the leading causes of low birth weight in low-income countries, while in more developed regions, premature births result in low birth weight .

Low birth weights have also become a challenge in highly developed economies, including the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. These countries recorded a constant low birthweight rate of 7% per year between 2000 and 2015.

Progress is also slow in high-income countries, including the United Kingdom, Finland, France, Germany, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, where the prevalence of Low birth weight has hardly changed between 2000 and 2015, according to the researchers.

Sweden has reported one of the lowest rates of low birth weight babies, at 2.4% in 2015.

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