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The launch of the Every Newborn Action Plan

The 3rd W.H.O/PMNCH Forum that took place in Johannesburg, South Africa; Monday 30th June – Tuesday 1st July 2014 which was a gathering of ‘Who is Who’ in the health sector has witnessed the launch of the Every Newborn Action Plan. A strategic document if and when implemented by countries will see tremendous progress in saving the lives of many newborn.

To justify why the global community must invest in Every Newborn, is to make some reference to the Lancet series on Every Newborn that was released on May 19th, 2014. It observed among others that “Every day, 15,000 babies are born and die without ever receiving a piece of paper. The lack of recording reflects the world’s acceptance that these deaths are inevitable. This fatalism, lack of attention, and lack of investment are the reasons behind lagging progress in reducing newborn deaths – and even slower for progress in reducing stillbirths. In reality, these deaths are nearly all preventable,” said Professor Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and senior health advisor to Save the Children.

And also reiterated that without greater investments to improve birth outcomes around the world, by 2035 there will be 116 million newborn deaths, 31 million surviving babies and children with disabilities, and 68 million with lost development potential because of stunting.

The Every Newborn action plan is based on the latest epidemiology, evidence and global and country learning, and supports the United Nations Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement. The preparation was guided by the advice of experts and partners, led by WHO and UNICEF, and by the outcome of several multi-stakeholder consultations and a web-based consultation with more than 300 comments. Discussed at the 67th World Health Assembly, Member States endorsed the document and made firm commitments to put in practice recommended actions. The Director General has been requested to monitor progress towards the achievement of the global goal and targets and report periodically to the Health Assembly until 2030.

While writing his ‘Foreword’ for the action plan the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon observed that “It is time to give newborns a more prominent place on the global health agenda. We must do much more to save the 2.9 million newborns dying during their first 28 days of life each year. The day of birth is the most dangerous day, when nearly half of maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths occur. It is also the day babies face the greatest risk of disability. Protecting newborns means ensuring proper care for their mothers before, during and after pregnancy.”

During the launch it was reiterated that we have unprecedented opportunities to turn the tide and address newborn health, as far more is known about effective interventions, service delivery channels and approaches to accelerate coverage and quality of care. Recently, renewed commitments to saving newborn lives and preventing stillbirths have been made by many governments and partners in response to the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. The Every Newborn action plan is based on epidemiology, evidence, and global and country learning, setting a framework to end preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths by 2035.

The action plan sets out a vision of a world in which there are no preventable deaths of newborns or stillbirths, where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth celebrated and women, babies and children survive, thrive and reach their full potential. Nearly 3 million lives could be saved each year if the actions in the plan are implemented and its goals and targets achieved. Based on evidence of what works, and developed within the framework for Every Woman Every Child, the plan enhances and supports coordinated, comprehensive planning and implementation of newborn-specific actions within the context of national reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) strategies and action plans, and in collaboration with stakeholders from the private sector, civil society, professional associations and others. The goal is to achieve equitable and high-quality coverage of care for all women and newborns through links with other global and national plans, measurement and accountability.

Below are some useful key messages;

  1. 3 million babies and women could be saved each year through investing in quality care around the time of birth and special care for sick and small newborns. Cost-effective solutions are now available to protect women and children from the most dangerous day of their lives – the day of birth.
  2. Unfinished agenda: Newborn health and stillbirths are part of the “unfinished agenda” of the Millennium Development Goals for women’s and children’s health. With newborn deaths still accounting for 44% of under-5 deaths globally, newborn mortality and stillbirths require greater visibility in the emerging post-2015 sustainable development agenda if the overall under-5 mortality is to be reduced.
  3. We have solutions to address the main causes of newborn death: More than 80% of all newborn deaths result from three preventable and treatable conditions – complications due to prematurity, intrapartum-related deaths (including birth asphyxia) and neonatal infections. Cost-effective, proven interventions exist to prevent and treat each main cause.
  4. Women’s and children’s health is a smart investment, particularly with specific attention to care at birth: High coverage of care around the time of birth and care of small and sick newborns would save nearly 3 million lives (women, newborns and stillbirths) each year at an additional running cost of only US$ 1.15 per person in 75 high burden countries. This would have a triple impact on investments – saving women and newborns and preventing stillbirths.

The time to act for our Newborns is now and everybody must rise up to expectation.

This article was 1st published in Daily Trust Newspaper of 22nd July 2014 by Dr Aminu Magashi ( healthweekly@yahoo.com)

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