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Save the Children report shows global health funding often ignores newborn babies

WASHINGTON (June 12, 2012) Save the Children has released a pioneering report on newborn survival over the last decade that shows the world has greatly overlooked a key area for reducing child deathsnewborn care.

The report, "A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival," was published in Health Policy and Planning today. Journalists are invited to attend the report launch, Wednesday 5:30-7:30 at FHI 360, Academy Hall, 1825 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC. (Please RSVP to

The world has achieved remarkable progress on reducing child deathsfrom 12.4 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010but that progress isn't reaching newborn babies at the same pace, the report shows. As a result, more than 40 percent of child deaths now occur in the newborn period, or first month of life. However, the new report finds that globally only 0.1 percent of official development assistance for maternal and child health exclusively targets newborns, and only 6 percent mentions newborns at alldespite 3.1 million newborn babies dying each year.

"We must make sure to focus global efforts on when are kids are dying. Shockingly, this is right at the start of their lives when they are newborn babies," said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. "This week's "Child Survival Call to Action" in Washington presents a tremendous opportunity for world leaders to finish what they started and end preventable child deaths. They must make babies a core focus to achieve that."

Miles added: "Save the Children applauds the U.S., Indian and Ethiopian governments for hosting this high-level forum and the Obama Administration for its commitment to continuing essential and effective U.S. leadership on child survival."

The June 14-15 forum in Washington comes as Save the Children's major new report, "A Decade of Change for Newborn Survival," is published in the medical journal, Health Policy and Planning. Sixty main authors and 90 contributors collaborated for three years on a first-of-its-kind analysis of newborn health around the world and what is needed to speed up progress on ending newborn deaths. From 2000 to 2010 newborn deaths dropped from 3.7 million to 3.1 million annually.

The report shows political will to reach the poorest families with the most effective interventions for newborn health has had dramatic results in low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Malawi and Nepal. All three are on track to meet the 2015 target of Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing child deaths by two thirds since 1990, and all have reduced newborn deaths at about double the rate of neighboring countries.

African families have the highest risk of newborn deaths and it would take 150 years at current rates of progress to achieve newborn death rates on par with the United States and Europe.

Other report findings include:

  • Maternal mortality is declining faster than before, but newborn mortality is declining at half that rateshowing that improved maternity services are not enough to combat threats to newborn survival. Declines in newborn mortality rates are also 30 percent slower than those of children under 5 who survive the newborn period.
  • From 2003 to 2008, official development assistance doubled for maternal, newborn and child health in the 68 countries with the most newborn deaths, but only 6 percent of this funding mentioned the word "newborn" and only 0.1 percent included specific newborn care interventions.
  • Family planningi.e., increased access to voluntary contraceptionhas led to reductions in newborn deaths, which often relate to too short a time between births or the youth of a mother. Prime examples are Nepal and Bangladesh, where the average number of babies per woman has been reduced by 50 percent.
  • 10 countriesincluding India and Ethiopiaaccount for two-thirds of neonatal deaths.
  • While economic growth is often linked to improved newborn survival, some of the world's poorest countries have achieved tremendous progress in both newborn and child survival. These include Malawi in Africa and Nepal in South Asia, both on track to meet MDG4, and Sri Lanka, which, despite conflict there, provides a dramatic example of halving deaths due to preterm birth.
  • The new report includes comprehensive analyses of how Bangladesh, Nepal and Malawi are leaders in reducing newborn deaths, how Uganda has made strides in policy change for newborns, and how in Pakistan national partnerships and champions have kept newborn health on the agenda despite challenges including earthquakes and floods.
  • More than 75 percent of newborn deaths could be prevented in 2015 with universal coverage of high-impact interventions like Kangaroo Mother Care (wrapping newborns in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers for warmth and improved breastfeeding), antibiotics for babies with infections, exclusive breastfeeding, and other basic care.

Save the Children urges world leaders gathered at this week's high-level forum to draw on these findings.

The "Child Survival Call to Action" aims to build on progress achieved in pursuit of the 2015 Millennium Development Goal on reducing child deaths with a global roadmap to reach new goalsnotably, reducing child deaths to fewer than 20 per 1,000 births in every country by 2035. Currently 53 children under age 5 die per 1,000 births globally, 40 percent of them newborns. Forum participants will include 700 prominent leaders from government, the private sector, faith-based organizations and civil society, including Save the Children.

Contact: Tanya Weinberg
Save the Children

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