Why are so many newborns Dying?

By Heidi Cortez, Executive Director

Out of anyone in the world, newborns born in rural  sub- Saharan Africa and in conflict zones are the most at risk of dying. The most fragile period of life is the first 28 days. Projections show that if nothing changes, some 26 million newborns will die by 2030 (World Health Organization and UNICEF). Tragically, these babies die from preventable causes. Things like asphyxia (inability to breathe), prematurity, and infection are common causes of neonatal mortality.  So if most of these babies are dying from preventable causes, why has this issue not been solved? This post will explore the reasons why thousands of newborns die every day and what can be done to stop it. 

NEwborns born in Conflict zones

“I am worried that the hospital will be bombed while I am giving birth.”

This is a direct quote from a mother we interviewed in Syria. Sadly, her fears are not unfounded. During active conflict, hospitals are often targeted. This leads to low access to healthcare. Consequently, a woman will have no clinic or hospital to deliver her baby and will need to deliver at home. Home deliveries apart from a skilled birth attendant are incredibly dangerous for both the mother and her babies’ survival. 

Saving Moses combats this issue by providing needed clinics in Syria. At these clinics last year, over 1000 babies were born safely. In Afghanistan, we circumvent these challenges by utilizing a community-based approach that educates key community leaders on safe birth practices. While sometimes complications arise in birth, often challenges can be handled with a community-based birth attendant who is well trained in safe birth practices. We have utilized this program for years and continue to despite Afghanistan’s current challenges. It has saved countless newborns from death. 

Newborns born in rural Sub-Saharan Africa

In rural sub-Saharan Africa, newborns do not have access to quality healthcare. Clinics in these areas are often rudimentary and are not equipped to handle common birth complications. 

We recently traveled to this region and interviewed several mothers who lost newborns shortly after birth. They all recanted the same story. After their babies were born and experienced complications, they were referred to the urban hospital that was equipped to treat their newborns. Unfortunately, city hospitals can be hours away, and their fragile newborns passed away on the way to the hospital. 

Saving Moses is currently developing programming to address this issue. As we develop this program, we are careful to ensure that we engage with local populations to provide solutions that are culturally appropriate and effective. Overall, we have found that well-trained skilled birth attendants, access to basic birth equipment, infection prevention, kangaroo care (or immediate skin to skin contact between mother and baby), and better transportation can help alleviate high neonatal mortality in rural regions. As thousands of babies continue to die from preventable causes in rural areas, the Saving Moses team has prioritized program implementation in 2022. Current efforts include mobilizing current partners to assess neonatal mortality in Angola and the Congo. We will also travel again to this region in the first half of the year to areas where neonatal mortality rates remain high. There is a temptation to provide immediate programming; however, the best, most sustainable programs involve a thorough analysis of the situation and in-depth engagement of the community that will be served. 

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