News / Africa

    Umbilical Cord Cleanser Cuts Infant Mortality

    Jennifer Lazuta
    Save the Children is partnering with GlaxoSmithKline to reformulate an antiseptic to clean newborns' umbilical cords, a simple intervention that researchers in South Asia have found can prevent one out of every six newborn deaths in the developing world.  Save the Children, in its State of the World’s Mothers report this week, identified this intervention as a key strategy to saving as many as one million babies worldwide who die each year on their first day of life.  

    Umbilical cord infections are one of the leading causes of newborn deaths, particularly in the developing world where babies are often born under poor hygienic conditions.

    Save the Children says that the 14 countries with the highest first-day death rates are all in sub-Saharan Africa.  And the group notes that of the one million babies worldwide each year who die on their first day of life, 40 percent are born in West and Central Africa.

    Infections such as sepsis, meningitis and tetanus account for approximately 15 percent of all newborn deaths.  They are caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream after the umbilical cord is cut.

    Preventing these infections is key because antibiotics are not always available - either the health center does not have them or a family can’t afford them.

    Research shows that chlorhexidine, an inexpensive, easy-to-use antiseptic that is commonly found in mouthwash, can also be used to cleanse the umbilical cord stumps of newborn babies and prevent such infections.

    Simon Wright is the head of child survival at Save the Children.

    “There are tubes of chlorhexidine that are available.  What is not available is a formulation which is suitable for delivery when you can’t refrigerate the product, that maybe needs to be used in the home by new mothers and used every day for the first seven days of the baby's life," said Wright.

    Save the Children says that one seven-day treatment cycle of the liquid antiseptic costs about 25 U.S. cents.

    It can be administered even by minimally trained health workers or by family members.

    Trial studies in Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan show that applying liquid chlorhexidine to the umbilical cord stump after birth can reduce the risk of newborn death by up to 23 percent.

    Wright said Save the Children is now working with the British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, (GSK) to create a new gel form of the antiseptic adapted for use in health centers with minimal resources.

    Doctor Pauline Williams is leading the chlorhexidine project at GSK.

    “What we’re going for is a gel, which seems to have a lot of user preference on the mother’s side, but also has practicalities of when she squirts it on the umbilical it will stay on. There’s been a central study non-inferiority showing that it’s as good, if not better than the liquid.  You can also put it in a sachet, so that means we have the opportunity to put it in or bundle with a clean delivery kit," said Williams.

    Williams said GSK and Save the Children plan to provide training materials for midwives and health workers and provide picture instructions to make it user-friendly even for illiterate mothers.

    She said they are hoping to keep the cost at about 25 cents per baby treated.

    Dr. Williams said that it will take at least one year to develop the optimum formulation and stability of the gel.  The formula will then have to be approved by regulators before it will made available to the public.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora