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Report | A Summary Landscape of Neonatal Nursing Education Programs in sub-Saharan Africa


Globally, about half of all under-5 deaths happen during the neonatal period (UNICEF, 2020a). While Neonatal mortality trends downwards, it is often at a slower rate than under-five mortality (UNICEF, 2021). Neonatal Mortality rates are highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with neonates having 10 times the risk of dying than in high-income countries (UNICEF, 2020b). There are many reasons for this disparity, one of them being access to quality healthcare (Gage et al., 2019). Healthcare access and quality of care both impact health outcomes. 61% of newborn deaths in the first 28 days are attributed to low-quality healthcare (UNICEF, 2020a).

Quality care, among other factors, increases with advanced educational opportunities for healthcare workers. For care of the sick newborn, nurses are integral in providing life-saving support. Specialty advanced degrees for Neonatal Nurses have improved capacity for care of newborns in the critical first month of life (WHO, 2020). There is, however, a gap in nursing care for small and sick newborns, especially in regions with limited healthcare access. Caring for neonates requires advanced and specialized training.

Programs focused on building the skills of nurses caring for newborns can happen at the preservice, in-service, on-the-job, at the certificate level, and in advanced degree program specialization programs. This landscape analysis focuses on identifying Bachelor (BSc) and Master’s (MSc) Degree programs at the University level that have a specific specialization in Neonatal Nursing within the sub-Saharan Africa region. The World Health organization (WHO) recommends that Neonatal Nurse advanced or postgraduate programs be part of a nationally accredited education program, usually lasting between 3-5 years (WHO, 2020).

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