A Plan to Save More Newborns in 2014 and Beyond

In 2014 newborns the world over will receive the much-needed attention they need to live and survive. Drawing on all of the great work from last year starting with the Global Newborn Health Conference held in Johannesburg last April leading up until now with the draft of the Every Newborn Action Plan newborns and their survival worldwide will be top on the global agenda as the year progresses.

We are happy to be able to lend our global voices to the importance of keeping newborns alive. Did you know 2.9 million newborns die during their first month of life each year? This number makes up 44% of all child deaths. Experts, researchers, and medical practitioners all know with certainty that if the newborn mortality rate can drop drastically the overall child mortality rate would subsequently decrease as well. These reductions in mortality rates will also aid the progress of MDGs 4 and 5.

The Every Newborn Action Plan was led by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Now in draft form the plan will be discussed during the 134th session of the World Health Organization Executive Meeting from January 20 – 24, 2014. Online consultations will begin through the end of February to hear the suggestions and ideas about the plan from stakeholders including mothers around the world.

As a part of the United Nation’s Every Woman Every Child movement the action plan details the research and expertise that will need to be followed in order to reduce newborn mortality. The five strategic objectives are as follows:

  • Strategic objective 1: Strengthen and invest in care during labor, childbirth, and the first day and week of life.
  • Strategic objective 2: Improve the quality of maternal and newborn care.
  • Strategic objective 3: Reach every woman and every newborn to reduce inequities.
  • Strategic objective 4: Harness the power of parents, families and communities.
  • Strategic objective 5: Count every newborn – measurement, program tracking and accountability.

Each strategic goal is also coupled with proposed action in order to ensure that the goals have a roadmap and framework to actually work. There is no lip service here. Overall the plan seeks to forge a reduction in newborn mortality of 66% by 2035. This certainly won’t be easy, but according to the plan it is doable. There are key strategies that need to be followed including increased funding for maternal and newborn health especially in low-income countries and low-resource areas. Countries need to be even more responsible and vigilant for the well-being of its citizens by providing access to quality care (emphasis on quality) for both mother and child. Countries also must create or increase its frontline health worker task force that will see to the care of mothers and newborns during the first month after birth and periodically thereafter. Additionally, according to the plan, there needs to be more community support for mothers and their newborns from women’s groups. And further more women and their families cannot be irreparably harmed financially for getting prenatal and postnatal care and for delivering their babies in health facilities.

Ethiopia has been cited time and again as a country that took researched and expert recommendations from the global health community and effectively reduced their child mortality rate. One of the ways Ethiopia accomplished this was through the will of the government, health extension workers, as well as through the health development army, a volunteer core of women who aid in the health and education of mothers with newborns.

Health Development Army - Photo: Jennifer James
Members of the Health Development Army – Photo: Jennifer James

Many low-income countries can learn greatly from Ethiopia’s example. Even as a low-income country themselves they have been able to achieve vastly improved nationwide health results for Ethiopian children because they wanted to. That is, the will of the country and its stakeholders are vital to all health improvements. Following the Every Newborn Action Plan can do this for countless low and middle-income countries as well.

The online consultation to share your thoughts, ideas, and recommendations for the plan starts during the last week of January through the end of February. All stakeholders are encouraged to take advantage of the online consultation phase. Follow @HealthyNewborns for the link to the online consultation form.

Photo Copyright: United Nations

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