Regional interagency meeting on Neonatal Health for the East and Southern Africa Region

In 2010, the UN SG launched the “Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health”. The “Every Woman Every Child” (EWEC) Initiative generated new attention and investment to address some of the most neglected causes of women’s and children’s mortality. After decades of neglect, newborn health came eventually on top of the agenda to culminate with the launch in 2014 of a multi-stakeholders’ action plan “Every Newborn: an action plan to end preventable deaths” (ENAP), with two goal of ending preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths.

To guide the implementation of the identified actions for newborn health a global “ENAP Management Team” has been set up and is co-chaired by UNICEF and WHO. The group has identified 28 focus countries (eight of which are in the East and Southern African (ESA)) region for specific monitoring, mainly on the basis of their high burden of neonatal and maternal mortality. It has four working groups focusing on: (1) advocacy; (2) country implementation; (3) indicators; and (4) research.

Since the launch of the ENAP in 2014, several guidelines and recommendations have been launched and management of other aspects of newborns has been updated. These include: improving the outcomes of preterm birth, the WHO application of ICD-10 to deaths during the perinatal period: ICD-PMs, Making Every Baby Count: Audit and review of stillbirths and neonatal deaths, WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience, guidelines spanning the continuum of maternal health care, quality of MNH care standards, management of possible serious bacterial infections (PSBI) in sick young infants when referral is not possible and the essential intrapartum care guidelines among others. Additional information on how to address the Zika virus disease has also been provided.

All these guidelines and standards are aimed at improving care for the newborn, reduce inequity and ensure that ‘no newborn is left behind’. Whereas some of the guidelines have been disseminated, this has not translated into uptake by many countries.  One of the main reasons for the poor uptake of the guidelines has been identified as poor performance of the health systems due to insufficient leadership, poor quality of care and inadequate finances to implement them to scale. In addition to these causes, neonatal health has still not received the attention it requires, including for the special groups like the preterm and in emergency settings.

It is for this reason that WHO/AFRO in collaboration with UNICEF and USAID propose to hold a Regional interagency meeting on Neonatal Health. The meeting will be held in Entebbe. Uganda from 19 -22 September 2017. The theme for this meeting is Scaling up access to quality care for newborns. Participants to this meeting will be drawn from Ministries of Health, UNICEF, UNFPA, USAID,  ECSA, EAC, SADAC, and other major development and implementing partners in the sub-region. Participants will be drawn from the Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Rwanda, South Sudan, South Africa, Somalia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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