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More babies are dying; Nigeria to adopt New Plan

By Ndidi Chukwu

As part of strategies to eliminate newborn deaths in Nigeria, a call to action, the adoption of Nigeria Newborn Action Plan (NENAP) which targets to promote partnership and secure stakeholders’ commitment towards ending preventable newborn deaths is underway.

This is against the backdrop that a WHO/Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) report in Countdown 2012 and 2014 has shown that the contribution of newborn deaths to total under-five deaths in Nigeria has increased from 29% to 32%.

“This implies that it will be improbable that Nigeria will further reduce under-five mortality  without significant reduction in neonatal deaths” said new Minister of Health Dr. Khaliru Alhassan who was former minister of state for health yesterday, when he briefed journalists in Abuja, ahead of the National Newborn Health Conference which  holds 23rd – 24th October 2014.

Four out of five newborn deaths are accounted for by three conditions: complications during childbirth, preterm birth, and infections, “all preventable and treatable conditions” Alhassan admits, adding that key interventions that address the issues of newborn deaths in Nigeria are known and many are already in existence in the country, but “coverage is low”.

National Newborn Health Conference is geared towards providing an opportunity where child survival champions will establish and renew partnerships and strategies that will help improve newborn survival in Nigeria through a high-level advocacy platform that brings together national and international stakeholders from different sectors – public, private and non-governmental

The two-day conference will  review progress of newborn survival strategies in Nigeria over the last two decades and also provide global technical updates on evidence-based newborn health interventions across the continuum of care. It is also expected that at the conference, Nigeria will present progress report on roll out of life saving commodities for newborn health.

Alhassan also noted that the NENAP is a domestication of the Global Every Newborn Action Plan produced through a series of consultative bottleneck analysis sessions with newborn stakeholders. He said “it articulates priority actions and commitment statements on how to curb preventable newborn deaths in Nigeria”

“As part of the transformation agenda of Mr. President, we have properly situated the issues of maternal and newborn health. Nigeria shall stop housing the greatest burden of newborn deaths in Africa. The time to act is now” he emphasized

Available data from the last three Nigeria Demographic and Health Surveys (NDHS 2003, 2008 and 2013) suggest that the synergistic efforts of Governments and partners have resulted in some improvement in overall childhood mortality with 36% improvement in under-five mortality falling from 201 through 157 to 128 per 1000 live births. Infant mortality also recorded 31% improvement as it fell from 100 through 75 then 65 per 1000 live births. Neonatal Mortality Rate for the country only gained a marginal 23% drop from 48 through 40 to 37 per 1000 live births from 2003, 2008 and 2013.

This was achieved according to Alhassan through “the IMNCH-MDG budget line”, established in 2011 to provide for the implementation of cost effective maternal health interventions. “The Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) week is a strategy of improving access to quality service delivery for the underserved populations”

There is Subsidy Reinvestment &Empowerment Program, and the Nigeria government has said it improved the skills of the Nigerian frontline health workers, and also adopted the Essential Newborn Care training package for in-service trainings, while the pre-service training curriculum of all cadre are being revised. CHEWs are also being trained on community based newborn care.

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