The global picture

Illustration of the globe

On this page, we share some global statistics for prematurity and neonatal mortality.

It is known that the methods for recording births and deaths can vary globally. There are several leading causes of childhood mortality across the world. These causes affect some countries more than others.

Sadly, close to 1 million children die each year from the complication of premature birth and globally, it’s a leading cause of death in children under 5.

Find out more about the causes of childhood and infant mortality on the World Health Organisation (WHO) website.

Premature birth

Around the world just over 13 million babies are born premature every year and most preterm births occur in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.

Find out more about premature birth around the world on the WHO website.

Neonatal mortality - the number of babies who die within their first 28 days of life

The country with the highest neonatal mortality rate in the world is South Sudan, at a rate of 40 per 1,000 live births in 2021.

Other countries with high rates of neonatal mortality are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. These include Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Countries that have the lowest rates include Singapore (1 per 1,000 live births) and Iceland (1 per 1,000 live births).

The UK ranks well globally, however, whilst the rate of neonatal mortality has improved since 1990, latest figures stand at 3 per 1,000 live births.

On 17 November each year, Bliss joins with organisations from around the world on World Prematurity Day to raise awareness of premature birth and take action for babies born too soon.

Reference list

Download our list of references for this page (PDF).

The information on this page was last updated on 9 April 2024.