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Three out of the four million newborn babies who die each year could be saved

s globally are infections (36%), premature birth (28%), and asphyxia (23%). A baby in a low-resource, high mortality country is 11 times more likely to die of infection than a baby in a rich, low mortality country. Neonatal tetanus, which has been virtually unseen in rich countries for a century, kills half a million babies each year. Around 60-80% of neonatal deaths arise in low-birthweight babies, although many could be saved with simple support for warmth and feeding. More than half of women in Africa and South Asia give birth at home without the presence of a skilled attendant. Countries with the highest neonatal mortality rates were generally found to have the lowest skilled attendance and institutional delivery rates. The authors write that preventing neonatal deaths has been neglected in both child survival and safe motherhood programmes. Currently, child survival programmes focus on preventing pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria, which are important causes of death, but after the first month of life.

Lead author Dr Joy Lawn (Saving Newborn Lives/Save the Children) comments: "Every year, 4 million babies still die in their first 4 weeks of life, most from preventable causes. This number is double the deaths due to HIV/AIDS; although AIDS is rightly hailed as a global emergency, newborn deaths are largely ignored. While we neglect these challenges, 450 newborn children die every hour, mainly from preventable causes, which is unconscionable in the 21st century."

HOW MANY LIVES OF NEWBORN BABIES CAN WE SAVE?

Nearly three-quarters of neonatal deaths could be avoided by 16 interventions, highlighted in the second paper in the series. These include tetanus toxoid vaccinations for pregnant women, promoting clean delivery, prompt and exclusive breastfeeding, extra care for low-birth-weight babies, and antibiotics for neonatal infection. The paper emphasises that combining interventions into packages, which are delivered within existing m
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Contact: Joe Santangelo
j.santangelo@elsevier.com
1-212-633-3810
Lancet
3-Mar-2005


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