Newborn Health

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The first 28 days of life, called the neonatal (newborn) period, is a very risky period for babies in the African Region. Although there have been impressive reductions in infant mortality, babies born in the Region are still more likely to be born too early, with low birth weight, and in conditions where they are at greater risk of infection (including tetanus), birth trauma and the complications of prematurity. Thus they begin their life cycle at a disadvantage. Many are still being born to mothers who have not had adequate nutrition and antenatal care during pregnancy and were given no skilled care while giving birth and within 2 days after birth.

Their mothers are at greater risk of dying during and after delivery, leaving their newborn babies at even greater risk of illness and death from inadequate care and suboptimal feeding practices. One third of the world’s neonatal deaths occur in the Region with approximately three quarters of deaths occurring during the first week of life and almost half being within the first 24 hours.

Deaths in this period of life contribute to one third of the deaths of all the children less than 5 years of age. Quality care with simple, accessible, cost–effective interventions can prevent up to two thirds of these deaths.

Interventions

Interventions aimed at addressing the causes of neonatal deaths have helped countries to improve newborn survival. These include community engagement for better maternal and newborn care; prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV; access to skilled care during delivery, including newborn resuscitation; and capacity-building for care of neonates at home and essential newborn care in health facilities. Essential interventions improving the survival of newborn babies include exclusive breastfeeding, kangaroo mother care (KMC) for preterm and low-birth weight babies, and prevention and treatment of infections.

Although there has been slow progress in the reduction of neonatal deaths, there are countries that have had great success in reducing neonatal mortality.

For instance, in Malawi where KMC has been used in health-care settings, neonatal mortality has been reduced from 40 deaths per 1000 live births in 2000 to 24 deaths per 1000 live births in 2012

In order to prevent up to two thirds of neonatal deaths, which account for one third of all children’s deaths, countries have implemented interventions including community engagement for better maternal and newborn care; prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; provision of access to skilled care during delivery, including newborn resuscitation; strengthening capacity-building to support care of neonates at home; and making available essential newborn care in health facilities.

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 Delivering our futureicon Delivering our future: Survival and health for every newborn (357.72 kB)
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An Action Plan To End Preventable Deaths icon Every Newborn - An Action Plan To End Preventable Deaths (8.18 MB)
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Recommendations maternalicon Guidelines - Recommendations on maternal and perinatal health (241.96 kB)
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 Recommendations on newbornicon Guidelines - Recommendations on newborn health (192.81 kB)
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 Home visit for the newbornicon Home visits for the newborn child: a strategy to improve survival (259.92 kB)
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Postnatal careicon WHO recommendations on Postnatal care of the mother and newborn (259.92 kB)