Save the Children has released a pioneering report on newborn survival over the last decade that shows the world has greatly overlooked a key area for reducing child deaths—newborn care. Download report highlights
The world has achieved remarkable progress on reducing child deaths—from 12.4 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010—but that progress isn’t reaching newborn babies at the same pace, the report shows. As a result, newborns (infants in the first month of life) now account for more than 40 percent of child deaths. However, the new report finds that globally only 0.1 percent of official development assistance for maternal and child health exclusively targets newborns, and only 6 percent mentions newborns at all—despite 3.1 million newborn babies dying each year.
“We must make sure to focus global efforts on when are kids are dying. Shockingly, this is right at the start of their lives when they are newborn babies,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children.
The report shows political will to reach the poorest families with the most effective interventions for newborn health has had dramatic results in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Malawi and Nepal. All three are on track to meet the 2015 target of Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing child deaths by two thirds since 1990, and all have reduced newborn deaths at about double the rate of neighboring countries.
African families have the highest risk of newborn deaths and it would take 150 years at current rates of progress to achieve newborn death rates on par with the United States and Europe.
Other report findings include:
- Maternal mortality is declining faster than before, but newborn mortality is declining at half that rate—showing that improved maternity services are not enough to combat threats to newborn survival. Declines in newborn mortality rates are also 30 percent slower than those of children under 5 who survive the newborn period.
- From 2003 to 2008, official development assistance doubled for maternal, newborn and child health in the 68 countries with the most newborn deaths, but only 6 percent of this funding mentioned the word “newborn” and only 0.1 percent included specific newborn care interventions.
- Family planning—i.e., increased access to voluntary contraception—has led to reductions in newborn deaths, which often relate to too short a time between births or the youth of a mother. Prime examples are Nepal and Bangladesh, where the average number of babies per woman has been reduced by 50 percent.
- 10 countries—including India and Ethiopia—account for two-thirds of neonatal deaths
- While economic growth is often linked to improved newborn survival, some of the world’s poorest countries have achieved tremendous progress in both newborn and child survival. These include Malawi in Africa and Nepal in South Asia, both on track to meet MDG4, and Sri Lanka, which, despite conflict there, provides a dramatic example of halving deaths due to preterm birth.
- The new report includes comprehensive analyses of how Bangladesh, Nepal and Malawi are leaders in reducing newborn deaths, how Uganda has made strides in policy change for newborns, and how in Pakistan national partnerships and champions have kept newborn health on the agenda despite challenges including earthquakes and floods.
- More than 75 percent of newborn deaths could be prevented in 2015 with universal coverage of high-impact interventions like Kangaroo Mother Care (wrapping newborns in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers for warmth and improved breastfeeding), antibiotics for babies with infections, exclusive breastfeeding, and other basic care.
Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and 120 countries around the world.
“A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival” was spearheaded by Save the Children’s Newborn Lives program, which is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and works in partnership with countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to reduce newborn mortality and improve newborn health.
Learn more about Save the Children’s campaign for newborn and child survival at www.EveryBeatMatters.org.
Photo credit: Sanjana Shrestha