(Above) Save the Children's CEO Carolyn Miles speaks at 'A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival' supplement lauch event.
Approximately one hundred health experts from around the world gathered on Wednesday, June 13th for a reception in Washington DC to mark the release of the supplement ‘A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival’ published in Health Policy and Planning. Coordinated by Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives Program, the supplement presents a comprehensive multi-country analysis of the changes in newborn care and survival from 2000-2010 and includes case studies from five countries.
Speakers included co-editors Joy E. Lawn and David Oot, Save the Children’s CEO Carolyn Miles, Zulfiqar Bhutta from Aga Khan University, Evelyn Zimba from Save the Children/SSDI-Services project and Cyril Engmann, Senior Program Officer for Newborn Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Presenters spoke of the advances that have been achieved in improving neonatal survival rates, and emphasized the importance of continuing the fight to curb the unacceptable 3.1 million neonatal deaths each year.
The release coincided with “A Call to Action,” a gathering of global leaders in Washington committed to ending preventable child deaths within our generation. With its new series of papers, Save the Children calls on international development leaders, stakeholders and partners to focus increased attention on newborn survival and health as critical to achieving the goal of ending preventable child deaths.
‘A Decade of Change in Newborn Survival’ presents strong discrepancies in the neonatal mortality rates and progress across countries and regions. Developed regions such as Europe have seen successes in further reducing newborn mortality, yet Africa has lagged behind in decreasing newborn mortality, despite its high numbers of neonatal deaths. In fact, at the current rate of decrease in neonatal mortality, it would take Africa 150 years to reach the neonatal mortality levels of the United States today! As Dr. Joy Lawn pointed out, this is just unacceptable. That is more time than it took Europe and the United States to decrease its rates over the past century. Great advances in technology and improvements in know-how about reaching mothers and their babies with quality care have helped improve neonatal survival throughout the last decade, and must continue to do so.
Joy Lawn, an African-born pediatrician and Director of Global Evidence and Policy for Save the Children’s Saving Newborn Lives program, spoke of the critical importance of the report and how looking back can help us look forward. “We know what to do,” Lawn professed. But among donors, there is a lack of attention to and focus specifically on newborns. While investments in maternal and newborn health have increased substantially, a very small portion of that funding mentions interventions targeting newborn and neonatal survival specifically.
The report finds that globally, only 0.1 percent of official development assistance for maternal and child health exclusively targets newborns, and only 6 percent mentions newborns at all, even though newborns account for over 40% of all under-five deaths each year.
Zulfiqar Bhutta (pictured second from right) and Evelyn Zimba (pictured fourth from right) both spoke about country progress, highlighting Pakistan and Malawi. Malawi, while one of the world’s poorest countries, has achieved tremendous progress in newborn survival and is on track to reach MDG 4, to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. In Pakistan national partnerships and champions have kept newborn health on the agenda despite challenges including natural disasters and political turmoil.
Save the Children’s CEO Carolyn Miles encouragingly stated neonatal survival is a priority for Save the Children. Since 2000, its Saving Newborn Lives Program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has worked with governments and partners to develop and support the adoption of affordable and effective ways to improve newborn health and survival in many of the poorest countries in the world. “We’re all here to help more babies have the opportunities to make it through the first month of life,” Carolyn stated. “There are proven investments we can make and proven ways to save lives, such as Kangaroo Mother Care. ”
The reception both highlighted the impressive strides already accomplished in the area of improving rates of neonatal mortality and also stressed the incredible amount of work still to be done. Simply put, we cannot achieve the goal of ending preventable deaths and boost survival and development without specific attention to newborn health and survival.
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