Report says 7,000 babies stillborn every day worldwide

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A pregnant mother is examined in a clinic
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Better clinical care and monitoring could cut the number of stillbirths worldwide, say the authors

Around 7,000 stillbirths occur globally every day, with the poorest nations worst affected, a series of papers published in The Lancet suggest.

An overwhelming 98% of the 2.6m stillbirths each year strike middle and low-income countries, they say.

Better clinical care and monitoring could halve stillbirths in poorer countries by 2020, the paper adds.

Save the Children said current opportunities to address the problem were currently being missed.

Invisible toll

The UN's Millennium Development goals set out targets for maternal and child deaths, but the authors of the Lancet reports suggest stillbirths are being neglected, and are taking what they call an "invisible toll" in poorer countries.

Sub-Sahara Africa and South Asian countries continue to suffer the most.

The report tasks poorer countries with reducing still births by 50% by the end of the decade and sets out measures which can be taken.

"Care at birth will give us the biggest return and saves mothers, newborns and children," Dr Joy Lawn of Save the Children told the BBC.

"Another really missed opportunity is treating syphilis during pregnancy and particularly in southern Africa, syphilis still kills babies and we estimate that around 136,000 stillbirths could be averted every year and that's at relatively low cost - it's about making your antenatal clinic services work.

"Other critical things would be treating hypertension in pregnancy, identifying diabetes in women who are pregnant and managing that better and then identifying babies that aren't growing well."

Some countries are already showing the way forward, according to the report.

Middle-income countries such as Columbia, China, Mexico and Argentina, have reduced their stillbirth rates by 40% to 50% in recent years.