When & Why Do Newborns Die?

Worldwide the under-five mortality rate has been decreasing but neonatal deaths represent an increasing proportion of the global under-five deaths. Further reductions in child mortality depend on substantial improvements in neonatal survival rates. Our experience in Vietnam supports this. In Vietnam more than half of all under-five deaths occur in the neonatal period (first 28 days of life).

The first month of a baby’s life should be a time of joy, yet that month, especially birth and the days thereafter, carries the highest risk of death for both mothers and heir newborns. Globally, 2.96 million newborns die each year, and 2.6 million babies are stillborn – 99% of these deaths are in developing and poor countries. The day a child is born is by far the most dangerous day in that child’s life, resulting in over a third of newborn deaths. Four out of five newborn deaths result from three preventable and treatable conditions: prematurity: neonatal infections; and complications during childbirth.

Up to two thirds of newborn deaths can be prevented if known, effective health measures are provided. The lack of progress in reducing maternal and newborn mortality is in large part due to poor health and social infrastructure, weak service delivery, and a critical shortage of qualified health workers.

Many newborn babies in Vietnam die even after admission to regional neonatal intensive care units. Lack of specialist training for neonatal nurses is a major contributory factor.

In partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University supported by the Royal College of Nursing, NBV are delivering a neonatal nurse education programme, aimed at improving newborn nursing care. Through this model we hope to establish a national training programme for neonatal nurses in Vietnam. Wider implementation of our nurse education model will lead to improved outcomes of sick babies born in Vietnam, and through dissemination as a proven model to improved outcomes in other countries and contributing to World Health Organisation’s Millennium Goal 4 ‘Reducing child mortality’.

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