Nearly 30 mn sick, premature newborns require treatment every year
Nearly 30 million babies are born too soon, too small or become sick every year and need specialised care to survive, according to a new report released on Thursday by a global coalition that includes Unicef and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report 'Survive and Thrive: Transforming care for every small and sick newborn' found that among the newborn babies most at risk of death and disability are those with complications from prematurity, brain injury during childbirth, severe bacterial infection or jaundice, and those with congenital conditions.
Additionally, the financial and psychological toll on their families can have detrimental effects on their cognitive, linguistic and emotional development, it said.
"When it comes to babies and their mothers, the right care at the right time in the right place can make all the difference," said Omar Abdi, Unicef Deputy Executive Director, adding that "millions of small and sick babies and women are dying every year because they simply do not receive the quality care that is their right and our collective responsibility."
According to the report, without a specialised treatment, many at-risk newborns won't survive their first month of life.
In 2017, some 2.5 million newborns died, mostly from preventable causes. Almost two-thirds of babies who died were born prematurely. And even if they survive, these babies face chronic diseases or developmental delays, the report said.
In addition, an estimated one million small and sick newborns survive with a long-term disability, it said.
With nurturing care, these babies can live without major complications. The report shows that by 2030, in 81 countries, the lives of 2.9 million women, stillborns and newborns can be saved with smarter strategies.
In addition, almost 68 per cent of newborn deaths could be averted in 2030 with simple fixes such as exclusive breastfeeding; skin-to-skin contact between the mother or father and the baby; medicines and essential equipment; and access to clean, well-equipped health facilities staffed by skilled health workers.
Other measures like resuscitating a baby who cannot breathe properly, giving the mother an injection to prevent bleeding, or delaying the cutting of the umbilical cord could also save millions.
According to the report, the world will not achieve the global target to achieve health for all unless it transforms care for every newborn. Without rapid progress, some countries will not meet this target for another 11 decades.
To save the newborns, the report recommends for round-the-clock inpatient care for newborns seven days a week.
It also suggested training nurses to provide hands-on care working in partnership with families and harnessing the power of parents and families by teaching them how to become expert caregivers and care for their babies, which can reduce stress, help babies gain weight and allow their brains to develop properly.
Providing good quality care should be a part of country policies, and a lifelong investment for those who are born small or sick, it said.