Countries experiencing complex humanitarian emergencies are also those with the highest burden of newborn death. A humanitarian crisis may result from a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, or from political turmoil, such as an armed conflict.

Humanitarian crises threaten the health and safety of communities directly and through the destruction of existing health systems and infrastructure. Pregnant women and newborns are especially vulnerable in these situations, and more needs to be done to support evidence-based, quality service delivery throughout all phases of emergency response.


number of people forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution in 2014


number of children under age 5 who live in countries affected by armed conflict in 2014


number of people who will need humanitarian aid in 2016


number of people who were displaced by natural disasters in 2015

More on Newborn health in emergencies

It is no coincidence that countries affected by humanitarian crises and conflict are the riskiest for mothers and babies. Access to essential services before, during, and after pregnancy in these settings is severely restricted. As the number of people affected by conflict, natural disasters, and other emergencies increases, the gap between needs and resources is growing. There is a growing demand from responders and governments to provide for the most vulnerable groups. When a baby is born in an emergency setting, the number of risks that are encountered in the first days of life may seem insurmountable — but even in these precarious situations, many of the deaths that occur around the time of birth are preventable. We can do something to help.

The global health cluster that is lead by the World Health Organization has agreed on the Minimum Initial Service Package for reproductive health in crisis situations. Recognising the gap for newborns, an inter-agency collaboration including representatives from UN agencies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, International Medical Corps, Save the Children, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and World Vision have come together to generate additional evidence and guidelines and coordinate advocacy for newborn health in humanitarian emergencies. They aim to galvanize efforts to ensure that life-saving care is available even in the most difficult of circumstances.