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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Activists for Peace Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified boarder, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs