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Report | Advancing Neonatal Nursing Education to Lower Neonatal Mortality in Sierra Leone & Malawi

Despite substantial progress in reducing child mortality over the past several decades, the proportion of neonatal deaths among under-five deaths increased from 40% in 1990 to 47% in 2019. Increased focus on neonatal survival is paramount if the world is to make significant gains on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on child survival. The vast majority of neonatal deaths occur in babies born prematurely, babies with infections, or babies asphyxiated around the time of delivery. Prematurity is the leading cause of newborn deaths in the first month of life globally, and 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. Global disparities in neonatal mortality are stark – with a ten times higher chance of a baby dying during the first month of life in sub-Saharan Africa compared to high-income countries. Optimal supportive care in a hospital Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) could avert 70% of neonatal deaths due to preterm birth and lack of timely decision-making to prevent infections and manage emergencies. There is, however, a critical human resource gap for a neonatal nursing cadre to serve in SCBUs, with limited neonatal nursing programs outside of high-income countries.

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