As countries make their final push toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals and beyond, progress in reducing neonatal mortality is essential to meeting the child survival MDG. While progress has been made in addressing childhood illnesses, newborn deaths now account for 43 percent of deaths of children under age 5years. Globally, nearly 3 million newborns die each year and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Four out of five newborn deaths result from three preventable and treatable conditions: prematurity, intrapartum-related complications (“birth asphyxia”) and infections.
With 170 million inhabitants, Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—has the continent’s highest annual number of newborn deaths. Each year more than 250,000 babies die in their first month of life accounting for more than a third of all under-five deaths. Complications during childbirth, preterm birth, and infections—all preventable and treatable conditions—are the major causes of newborn deaths.
Key interventions exist but coverage is low—much lower than most other African countries. For example, just half of all mothers are vaccinated against tetanus toxoid, 39% of mothers deliver with a suitably qualified attendant and 30% of women breastfeed their newborns within the first hour of life. Yet over two-thirds (70%) of newborn deaths in Nigeria could be prevented if essential interventions in existing packages reached all Nigerian women and their babies. The policies are mostly in place; what is needed is action at state and local level to increase coverage and quality of life-saving interventions while closing the equity gap for the poorest families.
The launch of the Government of Nigeria’s Saving One Million Lives Initiative creates an opportunity to accelerate the attainment of maternal and newborn health goals. The initiative sets a target of preventing 180,000 newborn deaths by 2015 by increasing the proportion of pregnant women who attend four or more antenatal care visits from 45% to 80%; by increasing the proportion of births with a skilled attendant from 40% to 85%; and by increasing the number of upgraded primary healthcare facilities from 1,000 to 5,000. The Government plans to reach these targets upgrading health facilities and by training and equipping facility staff to resuscitate babies, to practice thermal care, clean cord care, and Kangaroo Mother Care and to manage newborn jaundice.
Furthermore, a major focus of the Subsidy Reinvestment & Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) launched in February 2012 is to invest in maternal and child health at primary health care levels, including the introduction of a volunteer health worker cadre at community level. An adoption of the 15 lifesaving commodities for women and children by the President in 2012 and the recent launch of the Universal Health Care Initiative, show that the platform to reach every woman and child is already set; what is needed is commitment at state & LGA levels to ensure that all these interventions reach every woman & child anywhere they are across the country.
The National Newborn Conference is geared towards providing an opportunity where child survival champions will establish and renew partnerships and strategies that will help improve new born survival in Nigeria through a high-level advocacy platform that brings together national and international stakeholders from different sectors – public, private, and non-government.
- Day 1: REIZ CONTINENTAL HOTEL ABUJA– The conference shall be declared open on the first day by the Honourable Minister at the opening ceremony following which there would be technical sessions that would culminate in the articulation of key recommendations that is summed into the Every Newborn Action Plan.
- Day 2: CONGRESS HALL, NICON HILTON ABUJA– This high-level advocacy event shall be flagged off by Mr. President as the “Special guest of Honour” together with the First lady – the “Mother of the day”. Here the Honourable Minister shall unveil the concept and content of the “Nigerian Every Newborn Action Plan” (NENAP)which shall be launched by Mr. President as the road map for ending preventable newborn deaths in Nigeria.