The world has made substantial progress in reducing child mortality in the past several decades. Amazing feats have been achieved in tackling major killers of children such as diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, and malnutrition. But there is still much work to be done. Every day, there are 15,000 deaths of children under the age of five. While we are improving in critical areas for children, newborn mortality is not improving at the rate it should be. If trends continue, by 2030, it is projected that some 60 million children under age 5 will die, and half of those will be neonates - newborns in their first month of life.
If the world is to make significant gains on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on child survival, it is paramount that there is increased focus on the bottlenecks for neonatal survival.
About 85% of neonatal deaths occur in babies born too early and too small, babies with infections or babies asphyxiated around the time of delivery. According to the World Health Organization, more than two-thirds of these newborn deaths can be prevented through the use of interventions that require simple technology and basic care of all newborns.
Ensuring hygienic births and using newborn care practices such as hygienic cord care, immediate and thorough drying, skin to skin contact of the newborn with the mother, and early initiation of breastfeeding, and exclusive breastfeeding all help in the effort to decrease the neonatal mortality rate. Timely provision of resuscitation for the small percentage of newborns that may require it is also critical to newborn survival and part of essential care. Additionally, small and sick newborns require timely and high quality inpatient care to survive. Inpatient care for small and sick newborns includes provision of warmth, feeding support, safe oxygen therapy and effective phototherapy with prevention and treatment of infections. Inpatient care for newborns requires dedicated ward space, staffed by health workers with specialist training and skills.
Project HOPE is committed to ensuring children survive and thrive, including through optimal care during pregnancy, our longstanding capacity building and collaboration with children’s hospitals around the world, and through a revamped effort to improve the care provided to newborns in very low-resource settings.
We are currently implementing various neonatal programs around the world, including in the remote Regional Developing States of Ethiopia and in Bo District of Sierra Leone. In the past year in Sierra Leone, Project HOPE was instrumental in establishing the first two Kangaroo Mother Care Units for the country as care and demonstration sites for low birthweight and vulnerable newborns, and is helping to strengthen the continuum of care for these newborns between the hospital, primary care, and the community by working with each level of care.
Additionally, HOPE has trained and mentored hundreds of health professionals in various modules of essential newborn care and in the care of newborns in special baby care units. Project HOPE envisions a world where health workers have the training, supervisory support, supplies, tools, and equipment they need to appropriately and effectively manage labor, delivery, newborn care, and quality care for small and sick newborns.
On International Children’s Day, we celebrate the progress that has been made to save children’s lives around the world, and we recognize the work that is still needed to be done. It’s crucial that we all stay laser focused on our goal of decreasing newborn mortality rates so that every child can grow up.
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