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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Uganda and Kenya top the World in Newborn Deaths

By Esther Nakkazi
Uganda and Kenya, are among the only eight countries, which together account for more than half of all newborn deaths. Others are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. 

Research shows early 8,000 newborn babies die every day (2·9 million deaths per year) worldwide. Half of these 4,000 newborn deaths per day are only in eight countries. 
In Uganda alone, there are 38,500 stillborns and 34,600 neonatal deaths every year or 200 babies are dying in birth every day, largely from preventable causes.

If this is not checked, a whole century will pass before a child born in for instance Uganda has the same chance of survival as one born in the UK or US say the health experts. They also warn that if newborn deaths continue to fall at current rates, international targets to reduce mortality in children will not be met.

The study is published in The Lancet May 19th 2014, as part of its Every Newborn Series, (check http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60582-1/abstract) these are some of the countries with the highest burden of newborn and maternal deaths. The report provides comprehensive new data for 195 countries regarding neonatal deaths, stillbirths, rankings for countries, rates of progress and coverage of birth certification.

Among the factors identified by a group of global health experts led by Dr Kim Dickson, at UNICEF, USA, lack of skilled and competent healthcare workers was a common problem, lack of funding for newborn care, as was poor quality of care for mothers and their babies.

Additionally, the researchers found that with Kangaroo mother care, preventing and managing preterm births, providing inpatient care for small and ill babies, and managing infections were important impediments to progress across the countries studied. The study involved detailed consultations with more than 600 health professionals and policy makers.


For instance, in Uganda, these preventable deaths can be dramatically reduced via proven interventions like breastfeeding, neonatal resuscitation, Kangaroo mother care for preterm babies and antenatal corticosteroids. Better still, new data suggests that if these interventions were effectively implemented, Uganda could prevent 54,800 maternal and newborn deaths by 2025.

Dr Dickson said the findings show that increasing the numbers and skills of health care workers, as well as improving the quality of services available to mothers and their babies in many countries, will need immediate and deliberate attention if newborn health care is to improve in future decades, said a Press Release from http://www.alphagalileo.org/.

"Equitable access to high-quality, respectful care is a human right. To achieve the basic human right to survival, especially for small and ill babies, and a woman’s right to survival for both herself and her baby, needs a shift in norms to the universal resolve that no woman or baby should die needlessly – every woman, and every baby counts! To translate this shift into reality needs more investment, more medicines, and more health workers, including midwives and nurses with the skills and autonomy to provide the right care for every woman and every newborn baby,” he said.


Dr Elizabeth Mason, at the World Health Organization, Switzerland, and co-authors, identify priorities for action on improving maternal and newborn health, ahead of the World Health Assembly debate (scheduled for today 22 May) on the Every Newborn Action Plan, which provides an evidence-based roadmap towards care for every woman, and a healthy start for every newborn baby.

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