Background: Nearly 4 million children die during the first 4 weeks of life every year, yet known and effective interventions exist. Neonatal mortality has to be addressed if the millennium development goal for child survival is to be reached.
Aims: To determine the extent of within-country inequities in neonatal mortality and effective intervention coverage.
Methods: Neonatal, infant and child (under-2 years) mortality rates were calculated using empirical data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for eight countries using direct estimation techniques. Wealth groups were constructed for each country using the World Bank wealth index; neonatal mortality inequities were evaluated by comparing low:high quintile ratios: concentration indices were calculated for intervention coverage rates.
Results: The percentage of under-2 deaths occurring in the neonatal period ranged from 24.3% (Malawi) to 49.4% (Bangladesh). In all countries (excluding Haiti) inequities in both neonatal mortality and intervention coverage were evident across wealth groups with more deaths and less coverage in the poorest, compared richest, quintile; the largest mortality differential being 2.1 (Nicaragua) compared to 1.2 (Eritrea). In Nicaragua 33% of the poorest women had a skilled delivery compared to 98% of the richest; in Cambodia for antenatal care this was 18% (poorest) and 71% (richest). Low coverage of interventions tended to show top inequity patterns whilst high coverage tended to show bottom inequity patterns.
Conclusions: Reducing inequity is a necessary step in not only reducing neonatal deaths but also in reducing total child deaths. Intervention efforts need to begin to integrate approaches relevant to equity in programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
- DHS surveys
- Intervention coverage
- Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
- Neonatal mortality
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