Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Saving Babies

In 2012, the world's worst death rate for newborns was in Sierra Leone, with 49.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

In Somalia and Guinea-Bissau, it was 45.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and only marginally better in the other African countries in the group: Angola, 45.4; Lesotho, 45.3; the Democratic Republic of Congo, 43.5; Mali, 41.5; the Central African Republic, 40.9; and Cote d'Ivoire, 39.9.

 Pakistan was the only non-African country in the world's worst 10.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the top five countries for newborn deaths, with 118,000 babies dying a year. Newborn deaths in Nigeria total 267,000 a year.

"If current trends continue," a press release accompanying the studies says, "it will be over a century before a baby born in Africa has the same chances of survival as a baby born in North America or Europe."

 Professor Joy Lawn, a Ugandan-born pediatrician at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told AllAfrica "There has been a fatalistic acceptance from both communities and governments" but 70 percent of newborn deaths are preventable with currently available techniques.  Low-cost medical therapies have been developed, such as a class of drugs known as antenatal corticosteroids that can be given to a mother before birth - for about 50 cents - to improve the maturity of babies lungs. "A single injection", Lawn says, "can halve the risk of a baby developing lung complications. It's very evidence based."

Nearly three million newly-born children die each year worldwide, and another 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Nearly half of these deaths occur during labour and almost all go unrecorded.

Dr. Gary Darmstadt at the Gates Foundation says that despite "considerable advances" in healthcare for newborn babies, "further progress has been hindered by disappointing levels of investment, poor coordination globally and with countries, and inadequate translation of attention into effective national policies, health care programmes, and evaluation and monitoring of newborn health...Despite the evidence showing that there are feasible and affordable solutions to this problem - which include political prioritisation, increased investment, and concerted country action - poor global leadership, and inadequate coordination, evaluation, and accountability, are hindering progress."

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