News / Africa

Millions of Newborn Deaths Reported

Every Newborn Action Plan, an international initiative, is scheduled to be launched in June 2014. It's estimated there are 5.5-million newborn and still birth deaths each year. Credit: PMNCH
Every Newborn Action Plan, an international initiative, is scheduled to be launched in June 2014. It's estimated there are 5.5-million newborn and still birth deaths each year. Credit: PMNCH

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on preventing newborn deaths

Joe DeCapua
Despite five-and-a-half million newborn and stillborn baby deaths each year, investment in newborn health remains very low. That’s one of the findings in a series of papers published in the medical journal The Lancet. The research also shows the vast majority of those deaths could be prevented.
 
Listen to De Capua report on preventing newborn deaths
Listen to De Capua report on preventing newborn deathsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Lead researcher Joy Lawn said the research is the most accurate estimate yet on the number of deaths of newborns and stillbirths.
 
“Every year there are two-point-nine-million babies who die in the first month of life -- and most shockingly a million who die on their birthday, the first day. And there are two-point-six-million stillbirths -- most shockingly, one-point-two-million who die while the woman is in labor. So together this is five-and-a-half-million babies,” she said.
 
Most of the deaths are in low and middle income countries. But rich nations, she said, are not immune. There are about 500,000 pre-term births in the United States every year.
 
“The three leading causes around the world are pre-term births, birth complications -- so where women don’t get the right care during labor. And babies that are full-term can have damage and even die because of lack of care during labor – and then, thirdly, infections,” she said.
 
Lawn is a professor and Director of the March Center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an advisor to Save the Children UK. She said many babies and their mothers could be saved for just a few dollars worth of medical care.
 
“In this series we show very clearly that 71-percent of newborn deaths can be prevented with solutions that we have already. And that together, three-million women, babies – counting newborns and stillbirths – could be saved every year with investments at the time of birth. So that’s a triple return on investment with care at the time of birth,” she said.
 
That care includes simple things like keeping the baby warm; helping it learn to breastfeed and making sure it has skin to skin contact with its mother.  
 
Also, Lawn said there are injections that can greatly improve the odds of a baby’s survival. One injection prevents tetanus infections, a nearly always fatal condition for babies.
 
Another contains corticosteroids and is given to women in pre-term labor. Corticosteroids affect stress and immune response and inflammation. They help premature babies improve their breathing. This is standard treatment in rich nations, but not in developing countries. It costs less than one dollar.
 
Lawn said that it’s been known for many years that a large number of newborns die. Yet, funding to prevent the problem remains low.
 
“Of the billions of dollars that are given for child survival, only four-percent of that donor funding even mentions the word newborn. And yet 44-percent of under-five deaths are among newborns. So there’s a major mismatch in what the funding is going to compared to where the deaths are now,” she said.
 
Much of the funding goes towards preventing deaths of mothers and children up to age five.
 
In recent years, it’s become more common in the U.S. to issue birth certificates for stillborn babies. Lawn said it means a lot to parents to know that their child has been recognized. However, what the papers in The Lancet also show is that in many developing countries no record is kept.
 
Lawn said, “A women who loses a newborn death or a stillbirth in many of the places I’ve worked in Africa – there will be no piece of paper. The baby may not be named. It’s very unlikely there will be any funeral or public recognition. And those things aren’t just sad for the woman, but they hide the whole problem. The fact that in this day and age you can have five-and-a-half million babies entering and leaving the planet without official record – but also mostly without funerals or recognition – actually stops us [from] acting.”
 
More than 50 experts from 28 institutions in 17 countries took part in The Lancet series.
 
In June, a new international initiative is set to be launched called Every Newborn Action Plan. It’s described as “an evidence-based roadmap toward care for every women and a healthy start for every newborn baby.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More