This Simple Innovation Could Save Hundreds of Thousands of Newborn Lives

The following post was originally published on the Huffington Post. 

Cutting the umbilical cord at birth marks a baby’s first step toward independence. But in developing countries, that simple act too often creates an entry point for bacteria, leading to a more generalized infection. And that’s a very dangerous thing for a newborn.

Almost half of all newborn deaths in developing countries are related to infection.

Now there’s a new tool to protect newborns, an antiseptic solution called chlorhexidine that is applied to the cord right after it is cut. As secretariat of the Chlorhexidine Working Group,PATH has worked with other organizations in the group to adapt this decades-old antiseptic into a new formulation for umbilical cord use (7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate).

For less than fifty cents a dose, this product could save an estimated 422,000 babies over the next five years.

Our next step is to scale up this proven innovation globally and support its adoption and rollout in the countries where it is needed most. Chlorhexidine has a long shelf life, does not need to be refrigerated, and is very easy to apply to umbilical cords. Very few interventions show this kind of potential for rapidly reducing newborn mortality at such a low cost.

The most recent data show that despite overall declining rates of mortality in children under 5, the proportion of under-5 deaths that occur within the first month of life continues to rise. Expanding access to life-saving solutions like 7.1 percent chlorhexidine digluconate through targeted donor investments and country leadership can help reverse that trend as we work toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Learn more about PATH’s work on chlorhexidine here.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction around the United Nations General Assembly’s 68th session and its general debate on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), “Post-2015 Development Agenda: Setting the Stage” (September 24-October 2, 2013). The session will feature world leaders discussing progress made on the MDGs and what should replace them when they expire in 2015. To read all the posts in the series, click here; to follow the conversation on Twitter, find the hashtag #No1Behind. For more information about InterAction, click here.

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