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The first 28 days 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. Each year, 2.4 million newborns die, 1.9 million babies are stillborn and 295,000 women die globally during pregnancy or childbirth. More than 800,000 newborns die on the first day of life, making the day of birth the most dangerous day for babies in nearly every country.
Our newborn health programs focus on preventing and treating the main causes of newborn deaths: preterm birth, infections and complications during childbirth. These three conditions account for more than 80 percent of newborn deaths. Basic, low-cost care can save up to two-thirds of newborn lives when provided by trained health workers.
These key practices and interventions can dramatically increase a newborn’s chance of survival:
- Essential newborn care for all babies, which includes a clean delivery, encouraging skin-to-skin contact with the mother after birth, umbilical cord care, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, and resuscitation at birth for non-breathing newborns.
- Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), a proven intervention that includes continuous skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby, exclusive breastmilk feeding, and early discharge from hospital. Ensuring KMC in health facilities and follow-up and support for continuation at home to improve survival of preterm and low birthweight babies.
- Identification and timely initiation of appropriate antibiotic treatment of possible serious bacterial infections in newborns.
Providing these high-impact interventions requires a well-trained and supervised health workforce, essential equipment and medicines, and logistics management systems to ensure uninterrupted service availability.
Our programs aim to provide life-saving care and support for the mother and newborn before, during, and after birth.
Care for Pregnant Women
We support key elements of quality care during pregnancy including providing preventive services, such as birth preparedness and complication readiness and counseling expectant mothers on pregnancy danger signs. We also support the provision of immunizations and iron/folate supplements as well as presumptive treatment of malaria when relevant, and nutrition counseling. We aim to identify and manage complications in pregnant women such as infections (e.g., HIV, TB & STI), anemia, and preeclampsia/eclampsia.
We work to ensure that mothers receive quality care during childbirth, including safe and respectful care during and after delivery for both the mother and newborn, and appropriate and timely emergency care to manage complications. We promote the use of clean birth practices, including handwashing, to prevent life-threatening infections for newborns. We equip providers with the skills and tools to monitor fetal (and maternal) status during and immediately after labor and take appropriate actions to manage complications.
Mothers and newborns in the first days and weeks after birth are vulnerable to complications which can be prevented and successfully managed if detected early. We have established programmatic approaches that aim to address this need, helping generate the social support to change harmful social and gender norms and address other structural barriers. Various components of postnatal care are important opportunities to link health facilities with newborns and ensure healthy newborn practices at home. We developed an innovative approach to provide pre-discharge assessments, counseling, and linkages with community health workers to target the most vulnerable and marginalized - babies and mothers at high risk - to get home visits early. We further influence postnatal care practices through prenatal counseling and birth preparedness for pregnant mothers.
Newborn Health in Humanitarian Settings
Countries experiencing humanitarian crises are among those with the highest rates of newborn mortality. Save the Children played a lead role in developing the Newborn Health in Humanitarian Settings Field Guide, which provides guidance and tools to reduce newborn illness and death in humanitarian settings. A Roadmap to Accelerate Progress for Every Newborn in Humanitarian Settings 2020-2025 was also developed to set a vision for improving health for the most vulnerable mothers and newborns in humanitarian settings.
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