Photo of the Week: Accountability and Progress for Newborn Health

Photo: Jodi Bieber/Save the Children

Rose Muleka rests alongside her newborn son at Tudikolela Hospital in Mbuji Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was born not breathing, but was successfully resuscitated by the nurses at the hospital. Rose’s labor was long and hard leaving her with little energy to push, so the nurses had to help facilitate the birth, but when her son was born, he was no longer breathing. After several desperate attempts at resuscitation by the nurses, her son finally breathed. Rose Muleka said, " was happy when I saw that my child was alive, God helped him survive. I was lucky that my baby survived, as many women are not so lucky here in Congo." 

As the 1000 days mark until the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline has come and gone, there appears to be a renewed emphasis on where we are and what comes next for newborn health.  There have been several events – the Global Newborn Health Conference, Women Deliver, the World Health Assembly – and reports – State of the World’s Mothers: Surviving the First Day, Countdown to 2015: 2013 Accountability Report – that have helped to drive this engagement and will help to carry momentum forward.

The just-released Countdown 2013 Accountability Report addresses newborn health within the spectrum of maternal, newborn and child health. Importantly, it highlights country progress and where attention needs to be paid in the run up to the 2015 MDG deadline.

It finds that newborn deaths as a percentage of under-5 deaths are over 50% in 12 of the 75 countries surveyed. It stresses the need to improve prevention of preterm birth and stillbirths, and scale-up coverage of Kangaroo Mother Care, antenatal corticosteroids, chlorhexidine and other low-cost interventions. 

Importantly, there is data on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. Stopping the spread of HIV from mother to child is critically important towards making overall gains for child survival.

The report also gives snapshots of coverage levels for skilled attendant at birth, postnatal care for newborns and mothers, exclusive breastfeeding and demand for family planning, among others. It also provides and accountability framework that examines equity, government policies and health system factors.

Since 2000 the global health community has learned a great deal about newborn health. The MDGs have played an important role in that. There has been a greater understanding of not only why newborn mortality is happening, but also what low-cost interventions can make a difference in improving health outcomes. Hopefully we can leverage these reports and global events to continue engagement about newborn health and help reduce the risk of newborn mortality. 

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