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

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs