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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora