Vietnam is one of the 10 countries worldwide that have made the greatest strides in saving the lives of newborns over the past two decades, Save the Children reported.

Vietnam brought down the newborn mortality rate by 48 percent between 1990 and 2011, according to the agency's 14th annual State of the World's Mothers report, launched on May 7.

The report compares 176 countries around the globe to reveal which are succeeding – and which are failing – in saving and improving the lives of mothers and their children.

Vietnam was ranked the 86th best place to be a mother, based on factors such as maternal health, education and economic status, as well as critical child indicators such as health and nutrition.

The country came in ahead of ASEAN counterparts Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar, but trailed Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Overall, Finland was ranked the best place to be a mother while the Democratic Republic of Congo came in last.

The report also contains the first-ever Birth Day Risk Index, which lists the death rate for babies in their first day of life in 186 countries. One in 250 Vietnamese babies die on their first day of life, accounting for one-third of all newborn deaths and making this the most dangerous day for any baby.

Vietnam is on track to achieving its child and maternal mortality reduction targets as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals. However, more than 17,000 babies still die within the first month of life and many of these deaths are preventable," said Tuan Doan, Interim Country Director for Save the Children in Vietnam.

The agency called on Vietnamese leaders to invest in low-cost solutions to reduce newborn mortality, including paediatric antibiotics to treat deadly infections and exclusive breastfeeding.

It also asked for the country to improve its health care system so women could have greater access to skilled birth attendants and combat gender inequality and malnutrition.-VNA