NEW DELHI

More than 300,000 babies die within 24 hours of being born in India each year from infections and other preventable causes, a report said Tuesday, blaming a lack of political will and funding for the crisis.

India accounts for 29 percent of all newborn deaths worldwide, according to the charity Save the Children which published the findings at the launch of its annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

The report on 186 countries showed South Asia — which accounts for 24 percent of the world’s population — recording 40 percent of the world’s first-day deaths.

Bangladesh and Pakistan also have large numbers of yearly first-day deaths at 28,000 and 60,000 with chronic malnourishment of mothers one of the major factors for the fatalities in the region.

“Progress has been made, but more than 1,000 babies die every day on their first day of life from preventable causes throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” said Mike Novell, the regional director of the charity. The charity identified three major causes of newborn deaths — complications during birth, prematurity and infections — and said access to low-cost, life-saving interventions could cut down the figures by as much as 75 percent. “What is lacking is the political will and funding to deliver these solutions to all the mothers and babies who need them,” it said. More than half of all Indian women give birth without the help of skilled health care professionals, leading to infections and complications.

In far-flung areas, doctors and hospitals are rare and villagers often put the health of their children in the hands of poorly trained substitutes.

But even in cities such as New Delhi with relatively better healthcare facilities women are delivering at home, said Sharmila Lal, a Delhi-based gynaecologist.

The Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday displaced fellow African nation Niger to gain the unenviable distinction of being the worst place in the world to be a mother, according to the annual report of Save the Children.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa took up each of the bottom 10 places for the first time in the 14 years that the report has been produced. In contrast, Finland took the top spot, with its Nordic neighbours filling the other leading positions.

The London-based charity’s “State of the World’s Mothers” compared 176 countries in terms of maternal health, child mortality, education and levels of women’s income and political status.

The group called for investment to close the “startling disparities” in maternal health between the developed and developing world and for a push to fight inequality and malnutrition.

The report found that a woman or girl in the DRC has a one in 30 chance of dying from maternal causes — including childbirth.  In Finland the risk is one in 12,200.  “By investing in mothers and children, nations are investing in their future prosperity,” said Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children International’s Chief Executive.  “If women are educated, are represented politically, and have access to good quality maternal and child care, then they and their children are much more likely to survive and thrive - and so are the societies they live in,” she added.

“Huge progress has been made across the developing world, but much more can be done to save and improve millions of the poorest mothers and newborns’ lives.”

After the DRC, the next worst countries were listed as Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Niger.

The report blamed the high death rates for babies in sub-Saharan Africa on the poor health of mothers — citing figures which show 10 to 20 percent are underweight.

It also highlighted the number of mothers giving birth “before their bodies have matured”, the low use of contraception, poor access to satisfactory healthcare and a dearth of health-workers.

The study identified four potentially lifesaving products which it claims could be rolled out universally.

They are corticosteroid injections to women in preterm labour; resuscitation devices to save babies who do not breathe at birth; chlorhexidine cord cleansing to prevent umbilical cord infections and injectable antibiotics to treat newborn sepsis and pneumonia.

The top countries after Finland were Sweden, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands, with the USA trailing in 30th place behind Slovenia and Lithuania.

The report blamed the poor placing on its “weaker performance on measures of maternal health and child-wellbeing”.