Newborn Health

Improving Newborn Survival

The first 24 hours of a child’s life are the most dangerous, with more than one million babies dying each year on their first and only day of life, according to new research published by Save the Children.

Newborn Health Matters

  • Among all children, newborns have the highest risk of death. More than 90 percent of newborn deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • More than 7,300 stillbirths occur each day, half of which happen during labor and birth. The stillbirth rate is a sensitive indicator of quality of care in pregnancy and at birth.
  • Three preventable and treatable conditions are responsible for an estimated 81 percent of newborn deaths (prematurity, complications during childbirth, and infections).
  • There is substantial evidence that up to two-thirds of these deaths could be prevented if mothers and newborns received cost-effective, low-tech care.

The first month of a child’s life – the neonatal, or newborn, period – carries the highest risk of death. It is also the most dangerous period for the newborn’s mother. Globally, 2.7 million newborns die each year, 2.6 million babies are stillborn, and 303,000 women die as a consequence of pregnancy or childbirth. More than 1 million newborns die on the first day of life, making the birth day the most dangerous day for babies in nearly every country. Newborn deaths have decreased from 5.1 million in 1990 to 2.7 million in 2015. However, this 47 percent decline has been slower than for deaths of children under age 5 that occur after the first month of life.

The good news is that proven and cost-effective interventions, ranging from improved quality of antenatal care to skilled birth attendance to ensuring warmth and initiating breastfeeding at birth, have the potential to reduce the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths, and many of these interventions can be taken to scale.

Since 2000, thanks to joint efforts by multiple national and global stakeholders, low-income countries have recognized that focusing on newborn survival is critically important if they are to succeed in achieving the United Nations' ambitious goal of ending preventable deaths of newborns and children and reducing the neonatal mortality rate to 12 per 1,000 live births by 2030 – the mandate of Sustainable Development Goal 3.

The Saving Newborn Lives Program

Save the Children's Saving Newborn Lives (SNL) program, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a globally recognized leader in newborn health. Since 2000 SNL has worked to raise awareness, conduct research, and support country- and global-level efforts to institutionalize equitable and high effective coverage of high-impact newborn services and practices at national scale.

SNL works with governments and partners to keep newborn health on global and national agendas, and catalyzes action by developing, applying, and documenting evidence-based newborn care services and practices. In addition, SNL promotes the increased availability of and access to routine and emergency newborn care services and supplies, improved quality of newborn care services, and dissemination of evidence about and creation of increased demand for newborn care. SNL works with global partners and in seven priority countries, collaborating with country governments, development partners, civil society, and other strategic partners to catalyze action to improve health outcomes for newborns.

SNL established and supports the Healthy Newborn Network (HNN), an online community dedicated to addressing critical knowledge gaps in newborn health. HNN is a platform for organizations and professionals to exchange experiences; disseminate information; and increase coordination, collaboration, and co-generation of knowledge to advance newborn health.

Read more about the Saving Newborn Lives program.

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Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP):

MCHIP: Since 2008, the USAID Bureau for Global Health’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) has worked in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean to improve the health of women and their families. Building upon multiple global awards including USAID's previous flagship maternal and newborn health project, ACCESS, which concluded in December 2009, MCHIP supported programming in maternal, newborn and child health, immunization, family planning, nutrition, malaria and HIV/AIDS, and encouraged opportunities for integration of programs and services when feasible. MCHIP addressed the barriers to accessing and using key evidence-based interventions across the life stages—from pre-pregnancy to age five—by linking communities, primary health facilities and hospitals. By helping countries identify and focus on those innovations that have been proven to save lives, MCHIP supported delivery of evidence-based interventions through strengthening government health systems, nongovernmental organizations and other local partners. (Read more)

MCSP: In June 2014, USAID announced MCHIP’s successor program, the Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP). Carrying forward the momentum and lessons learned from MCHIP, MCSP will introduce and support high-impact health interventions in USAID’s 24 priority countries with the ultimate goal of contributing to USAID’s efforts to ending preventable maternal and child deaths within a generation. MCSP supports programming in maternal, newborn and child health, immunization, family planning and reproductive health, nutrition, health systems strengthening, water/sanitation/hygiene, malaria, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and pediatric HIV care and treatment. The Program engages governments, policymakers, private sector leaders, healthcare providers, civil society, faith-based organizations and communities in adopting and accelerating proven approaches to address the major causes of maternal, newborn and child mortality, and improve the quality of health services from household to hospital. The Program will tackle these issues through approaches that also focus on health systems strengthening, household and community mobilization, gender integration and eHealth, among others.

To read more about this flagship program working to end preventable child and maternal deaths, please visit: www.mcsprogram.org.

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Helping Babies Breathe (HBB):

Since 2010 Save the Children has been a partner in the HBB Global Development Alliance (GDA), a public-private partnership that seeks to improve care for newborns who suffer from birth asphyxia by rolling out a training curriculum globally. Developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), HBB takes a competency-based, pair-learning training approach to teach the essential skills of neonatal resuscitation to health workers in resource-limited areas. The GDA seeks not only to train service providers but also to work with ministries of health and their implementing partners to provide functional resuscitation equipment (notably a high-quality, low-cost manikin and associated equipment for training and practice of newborn resuscitation) for all health facilities where babies are delivered. Visit www.helpingbabiesbreathe.org to learn more about the HBB curriculum.

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