Photo of the Week: Liberia’s Progress for Newborn Health

Photo: Rachael Palmer/Save the Children

Baby Juso, rests after being born just two hours and 45 minutes ago at the Fefeh Town clinic in Liberia. One in nine children die in Liberia from easily preventable diseases. But the country is making progress thanks to simple steps such as widespread vaccination programmes, mosquito net distributions and a commitment to making healthcare free for even the poorest families. 25,000 more children now survive to their fifth birthdays compared to a few years ago.  

Liberia’s Ministry of Health & Social Welfare announced this past spring that two newborn care interventions would be formalized and implemented to reduce infections and prematurity in newborn babies – chlorhexidine for umbilical cord care and Kangaroo Mother Care. This is encouraging news that will help to address the burden of newborn mortality in the country.

While the newborn mortality rate did reduce from 41/1000 to 27/1000 from 2000 to 2011, neonatal mortality is currently declining 56% slower than under-five mortality. The formalization of these interventions are an important step in the government’s commitment to tackling this public health problem.

According to the Ministry, 27% of neonatal deaths are due to newborn infection. Substances like talc, ash and mud are still used to care for newborns umbilical cord despite public programs that promote dry cord care. The approval of 7.1% Chlorhexidine Digluconate (4% free chlorhexidine) will help to address this cause of infection.

Kangaroo Mother Care was formalized in a National Implementation Guideline that applies at the national, regional and county level. It will now become the standard of care for preterm and low birth weight babies. This is especially important for more isolated health facilities that lack the infrastructure for neonatal intensive care.

The good news is clear – newborns will now have access to two live-saving, low-cost interventions that can be introduced widely across the country for maximum impact.  

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