05 July 2012

Save the Children on Changing the Trajectory of Newborn Survival

This originally appears on the PSI Healthy Lives Blog.

3.1 million newborns die in the first month of life each year. The problem of neonatal deaths is highly concentrated, yet one that can be addressed. For example, two-thirds of global neonatal deaths occur in only 10 countries, places like India and Ethiopia.

Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program worked with over 150 contributors and 60 health experts to produce A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival, a supplement published by Health Policy and Planning. The supplement uses mainly in-country partners and presents multi-country analyses to bring forward 5 detailed case studies on neonatal health.


The case studies demonstrate that changing the trajectory for newborn survival is possible even in challenging settings. Specifically, it shows that success happens when the focus is placed on reaching the poorest families with the most effective interventions. The HPP series includes comprehensive analyses of how Bangladesh, Nepal and Malawi are leaders in reducing newborn deaths; how Uganda has made strides in policy change for newborns; and how in Pakistan national partnerships and champions have kept newborn health on the agenda despite challenges including earthquakes and floods.

Maternal mortality is declining faster than before, but at a rate that is twice as fast as newborn mortality. That indicates that improved maternity services are saving the lives of mothers, but are not sufficient in reducing neonatal deaths. Furthermore, the funding for newborn care falls woefully short. Official development assistance in 68 countries for maternal, newborn and child health doubled between 2003 and 2008. Of that funding, only 6% mentioned the word “newborn” and only 0.1 percent included specific newborn care interventions.


It is estimated that over 75% of newborn deaths could be prevented in 2015 with universal coverage of high-impact interventions. These include: Kangaroo Mother Care, antibiotics for babies with infections and exclusive breastfeeding. The known solutions and the challenges add up to the opportunity to reduce neonatal deaths. "There are some principles, though, that we can systematically apply. We know from the study what’s been successful thus far: political commitment and policy change, social and behavioral change at the family level, and the importance of frontline health workers to deliver life-saving interventions at the community level," wrote Dr. Gary L. Darmstadt, leader the Family Health Division of the Gates Foundation.

The new report includes comprehensive analyses of how Bangladesh, Nepal and Malawi are leaders in reducing newborn deaths, how Uganda has made strides in policy change for newborns, and how in Pakistan national partnerships and champions have kept newborn health on the agenda despite challenges including earthquakes and floods.

See the executive summary below and read the individual reports here.

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