LONDON, England - Chad and Somalia are the worst countries in the world for a child to fall sick while Switzerland and Finland rank as the best, according to a new index of health worker provision devised by the global health charity Save the Children.
The analysis shows that children living in the bottom 20 countries -- where there are only just over two health workers for every thousand people -- are five times more likely to die than those further up the index.
The study also highlights countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone where millions of children's lives are at risk due to a lack of trained health workers.
Justin Forsyth, Save the Children's chief executive, said the findings were disturbing.
"A child's survival depends on where he or she is born in the world. No mother should have to watch helplessly as her child grows sick and dies, simply because there is no one trained to help," he said in a statement.
"World leaders must tackle the health worker shortage and realise that failing to invest in health workers will cost lives."
The index measures how many health workers there are, as well as their reach and impact. It also tracks the proportion of children who receive regular vaccinations and mothers who have access to life-saving emergency care at birth.
The analysis found that children living in the most remote areas are least likely to see a health worker. In Ethiopia, for example, just under 70 percent of women say that a clinic is too far away, while in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Niger more than half of all women surveyed said the health clinic is just too far for them to reach.
The index was published ahead of a United Nations high level summit due to be held in New York on Sept. 19 and 20 designed to outline a global action plan on chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and lung disorders.
Save the Children urged leaders to focus their efforts on addressing a global shortage of more than 3.5 million doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers.
"Without them no vaccine can be administered, no life-saving drugs prescribed and no woman can be given expert care during her childbirth. Illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, which are easily treated, become deadly," the charity said.
The top 20 and bottom 20 countries in the index were:
Sierra Leone 144
Papua New Guinea 149
Equatorial Guinea 155
Cen. African Rep. 156
Lao P.D.R 159
Russian Federation 11
Czech Republic 13
United Kingdom 14
United States 15
New Zealand 18